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Subbies’ plight reinforces RSRT 2.0 need, says Sterle

Toll’s tough new directives for subbies at a Brisbane distribution centre is a classic example of why the industry needs a new iteration of the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal (RSRT), believes WA Labor Senator Glenn Sterle.

As we revealed in our last issue in the page three story ‘Toll slugs loyal subbies with double blow at Brisbane DC’, long-serving owner-drivers have been told they need to upgrade their trucks to newer models if they want to keep working for Coles.

To add insult to injury, they’ve also had their pallet rates dramatically slashed – up to $300 per truck each day in some cases – forcing at least one operator we spoke with  to pack up shop this month after more than a decade at the Parkinson DC.

Sterle says he’s unsure yet exactly what powers a new RSRT would have if Labor wins the next election.

“But I can guarantee you, they wouldn’t be able to do what Toll’s just done,” the former truckie told Big Rigs.

“This sort of behaviour would be illegal under a future Labor Government.”

Sterle says he’s incensed by talk he’s hearing from drivers that Toll fears legal retribution from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) if they renegotiate rates with owner-drivers.

“They can crap on as much as they like; the ACCC clearly said to me that owner-drivers can seek exemptions, and I’m going to expose them for it.”

Sterle says he’s only too aware of how derided the last RSRT was with its much maligned and ill-conceived Payments Order that put owner-drivers at a competitive disadvantage.

“We got it wrong the first time, we’re not going to get it wrong the second time because the industry will be at the table,” Sterle said.

“Clearly, we can’t set rates, we know that we can’t set rates. Christ Almighty, the industry is that different, but what we can do is stop this crap where transport companies, whether they have one truck or 1000 trucks, have the clients screwing them down below cost.”

Labor reinforced at its recent national conference that the RSRT would return should it win the next election, a fact that was reiterated when we contacted Shadow Transport Minister Catherine King.

“Labor is committed to ensuring that all workers across the trucking industry have access to safe working conditions and fair rates of pay,” King told Big Rigs.

“With new technologies and gig work spreading across the economy and the squeeze from the top of the supply chain, it is more important than ever that we avoid a race to the bottom in trucking for wages and conditions.

“We recognise that in the last election campaign, some people were concerned about the way our policy was framed. We have worked hard over the last couple of years – and I am particularly grateful to Glenn Sterle for his work in this regard – to explain the intent of our policy, and to listen to truckies’ concerns.”

King said Labor wants to see a fair system of pay and conditions in the truck industry.

“While we have not settled on the precise mechanism to achieve this, a Labor government would consult closely with industry to design and implement a new system. 

“We look forward to working with all sectors of the trucking industry in the lead up to the next election and beyond to ensure that everyone in the industry gets home safely and takes with them a fair rate of pay.”

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