Victorian Tippers United (VTU) spokesman Luke McCrone says owner-drivers in the state have made progress on minimum rates arrangements with plant operators.
Earlier last year McCrone alleged that Victoria’s minimum mandatory hourly rates for various types of tipper trucks was under threat because a large plant hire group was exploiting a loophole to win government job contracts.
The company in question, which could not be named for legal reasons, allegedly undercut its rivals by offering to pay the required rate if its drivers agreed to join a subcontractor services club, for a voluntary charge of $6.38 per hour, which gave them priority on all major projects.
McCrone said the Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission (IBAC) found there wasn’t any public sector corruption involved because, whilst the projects were government funded, the builder who engaged the plant-hire companies could not be considered as a public sector entity.
“It’s a bit more at arm’s length from public money,” said McCrone.
“Corruption in the public service is what IBAC are interested in looking at.”
McCrone, however, said that the Victorian state government has undertaken a review into the minimum rates arrangements to avoid potential ‘kickback’ scenarios.
With Victoria and much of the country emerging from lockdown, McCrone said the world had moved on and it was time to act.
“The VTU has been trying for some time to get a big enough group of drivers behind us where we can go to plant hirers and negotiate a collective owner-driver agreement,” he said.
“Within a week of us doing that, they all started to lift their rates. We’ve seen rates go up between 10 to 15 per cent, depending on the plant hirer.”
While McCrone acknowledges the response from plant hirers might also reflect the state of the market, he believes the influence of the VTU can’t be underestimated.
“I think the nudge from us gave the hirers the push. Rates haven’t moved since 2014,” McCrone said.
“In 2014 rates were around $75 per hour, where now the lowest rates we’ve seen are between $80 to $89 per hour. The government rate is $91 dollars per hour so with minimal difference there’s no incentive for a commission.”
McCrone said the VTU will continue to push for further condition changes, including an annual rate review mechanism, additional money for working on weekends, clarification on penalties for working at night, extra money for carting rocks and minimum arrangements on contract rates.
“If you’re working on a contract and a customer runs out of material for you to cart, drivers should get the minimum payment,” said McCrone.
“There’s a few bits and pieces we’re still trying to work out and we’ll be getting stuck into that in the new year.”