Owner-operator truck drivers are breathing a sigh of relief after the federal government announced it will push back controversial new pay rates to at least January 2017.
Employment Minister Michaela Cash revealed yesterday the government will introduce legislation to ensure the new minimum pay rates handed down by the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal, which will disadvantage small business owners, will not come into effect until at least next year pending a substantial review with all stakeholders.
The decision is good news for operator-drivers, who last week thought they would be soon priced out of the market by big businesses who are not subject to the updated minimum payment rates.
Speaking to ABC Radio, Cash said her office has received “hundreds to thousands” of calls and emails from truck drivers who have mortgaged their homes in order to start their own business and put food on the table.
Cash described truck drivers as the lifeblood of the economy, and signalled her disagreement with the tribunal’s decision to apply the minimum award to owner-drivers.
“This is all about making owner drivers uncompetitive, a tribunal stepping in and saying we are going to tell you what to charge even if that prices you, which it will do, out of the market,” Cash said.
“There are people out there who phone my office, grown men in tears begging us to do something.”
The Australian Industry Group has welcomed the government’s decision.
Chief executive Innes Willox said in a statement the Turnbull government’s legislation will give truck drivers the breathing room necessary to have their views heard.
“During the government’s consultation process, the Australian Industry Group will argue that the Road Safety Remuneration Act and Tribunal should be abolished,” Willox said.
“They are distracting resources and attention away from measures that are widely recognised as improving road safety such as compliance measures, better roads, and increased use of technology. Paying contractor drivers more or differently will not improve road safety.”