Long-time driver Glyn Castanelli says this week’s passing of the Closing Loopholes Bill is a massive win for Australian truckies.
The bill empowers the Fair Work Commission to set minimum standards for the road transport industry, that could include the rates for independent owner-drivers.
An independent advisory group made up of owner-drivers will also be set up to look out for truckies’ best interests and ensure that the mistakes of the ill-fated Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal (RSRT) are not repeated.
“We can’t ever go down the RSRT track again and have one group adversely affected by the [payment] orders, said Castanelli who, along with other members of the National Road Freighters Association (NRFA), has worked closely with the TWU and ARTIO to get the bill over the line.
Castanelli, the NRFA vice president says this is the first time in the world that an industry will be able to govern itself as far as minimum mandatory standards go.
“This a big thing for the industry and it has far-reaching tentacles for the gig economy which is knocking on our door right now.
“The industry is very much engulfed in this gig economy and driven by people who have just got a platform and a computer.”
Castanelli, who has been involved since day one with his NRFA colleagues in pushing for the legislation, says there is a lot still to work out, but it is a “very exciting time” for the industry.
“This is a fantastic outcome and a great step towards lifting standards for truck drivers just trying to get the job done.
“Minimum standards will give owner-drivers at the bottom of the food chain the ability to negotiate fair and sustainable work. This has the potential to be life-saving and life-changing for transport families across the country.”
Big Rigs understands that it could take up to two years before the bill’s impact is felt by truckies.
Castanelli says there will be some “low-hanging fruit” chosen first that is critical for the industry.
“That could be anything out of payment terms, demurrage, some sort of industry-wide fuel levy, we don’t know.
“But rates aren’t high on the agenda because it’s not really a rate-setting body. It’s actually a body that can ensure that anybody, from the top of the supply chain, the instigator of the transport task is required to pay enough so that the person on the bottom of that trasnport chain receives enough to run a viable business.
“Determining that is going to be the mystery.”
Gordon Mackinlay, immediate past president of the NRFA and current board member, was also quick to allay fears that the new bill would see a repeat of the RSRT.
“This isn’t the RSRT 2.0, it’s dead and buried, and it’s gone,” stressed Mackinlay, who was front and centre of the protests and push that led to the abolishment of the RSRT in 2016.
“This is a whole new legislation, it’s been worked on with industry, rather than a tribunal of people who had no idea about transport, and we’ve worked very closely with the government of the day, which of course is now Labor.
“We’ve gone to the people who would listen and are trying to help us. The coalition did exactly nothing, jack shit.
“I wouldn’t say I’ve had an about-face; I’m just working with the tools that are in the toolbox.”