TWU VIC/TAS Branch Media Release
The Transport Workers Union (Victoria/Tasmania Branch) welcomes the support for the Owner Drivers and Forestry Contractors Amendment Bill 2019 which yesterday passed the Victorian Upper House.
This Act was introduced in April 2019, with the aim of amending various acts to provide safer, fairer and more secure working conditions for owner drivers and forestry contractors in Victoria.
For many years, the TWU has been advocating for changes to the original Owner Drivers and Forestry Contractors Act 2005 to make the transport industry work for hard working Owner Drivers. Several of the proposed legislative changes were suggested by the TWU in their submission to the Victorian Inquiry into Labour Hire Industry and Insecure Work. Since the submission, the TWU have been lobbying politicians for these changes.
Many Owner Drivers have been treated like second-class citizens for too long. Forcing drivers to accept poorly paid work which has put drivers on a race to the bottom, trying to juggle operational costs and upkeep as well as supporting their families – this legislation will address some of that. Drivers and Unions will now have the ability to have unfair matters arbitrated, not just mediated as per the current legislation.
These changes will make a real, tangible difference in the lives of owner drivers. For starters, after a period of time any site agreement must be offered to new owner drivers rather than a new contract which holds the potential of undercutting existing conditions of employees and Owner Drivers on the site.
Drivers have told the TWU time and time again about the challenges of being paid for a job on time – sometimes waiting months on end for a payment, if it arrives at all. This legislation will enshrine in law that payments must be made within 30 days of an invoice being received.
The changes to the Act is to be monitored by employment watchdog Wage Inspectorate Victoria with fines for noncompliance.
These changes will save lives and will improve the lives of working people throughout our industry – from owner driver truck drivers through to drivers in the gig economy.
“The rise of the gig economy has seen some of Victoria’s most vulnerable workers at risk of exploitation. The Owner Drivers and Forestry Contractors Amendment Bill 2019 tightens the loop holes faced by drivers and riders in the gig economy. It also goes a long way to protecting good jobs in the industry from new freight models by the likes of Amazon and Uber.”
“Until now, many big companies have obtained control on aspects of the work Owner Drivers do, the Owner Driver bears all the risk and the company enjoys full flexibility in the relationship. This area has been crying out for regulation and I congratulate the Andrews Government for successfully passing this Act to protect these small businesses and now giving us the ability to tackle matters front on through arbitration. We look forward to working with the State Government to immediately role out an education process to the industry” says John Berger, TWU VIC/TAS Branch Secretary.
The Victorian legislative changes follows the backing yesterday from the Senate for an inquiry into the crisis in transport. The inquiry will look at the high number of deaths and injuries, the potential effects of Uber Freight and other gig economy companies and the “importance of a viable, safe, sustainable and efficient road transport industry”, according to the terms of reference. It will examine “efficient cost-recovered measures for industry stakeholders, including sub-contractors”. The plan for the Senate inquiry won overwhelming support of the industry following two industry forums in Canberra, organised by Senator Glenn Sterle, which involved. truck drivers, the TWU, employer associations, operators and retailers.
While the Victorian Government has addressed the problems facing owner drivers in Victoria, the Federal Government continues to keep their heads buried in the sand. Until the Federal Government address the failing of the system, truck drivers across Australia will be at risk of exploitation. In April 2016, the Federal Government scrapped minimum rates for truck drivers when it abolished the safety watchdog. It also let wealthy retailers, manufacturers and oil companies off the hook for ensuring that their contracts allow for their goods to be delivered safely.
KEY CHANGES TO THE LEGISLATION AS FOLLOWS:
- Allows Owner Divers the ability to collectively negotiate, once an agreement is reached, Owner Drivers are able to lodge the proposed agreements into the commission.
- Low cost and accessible arbitration to hear disputes on contracts.
- Legal requirement that invoices are paid within 30 days of receiving the invoice.
- Updating the definition of “freight broker” under the legislation to cover third party contracting platforms, such as gig-economy companies like Uber Freight.
- Requires companies and freight brokers to provide Owner Drivers with the annually scheduled rates and costs, if the contractor is engaged under more than one contract during a 12-month period.
- Legally requiring companies and contractors to provide tip truck drivers working alongside the building and construction industry with an information booklet, including the rates and costs schedule, regardless of the period of time in which the Owner Driver is contracted.
- Clarifies that Owner Drivers have the option to be covered by the same terms and conditions as an existing, regulated contract which has been previously jointly negotiated on the same site.
- Introducing penalties for failure to provide an Owner Driver with the information booklet, rate and cost schedule, written contract and either with the appropriate notice of termination or the specific minimum payment in lieu thereof.
- Establishing an enforcement and compliance framework that will include a system that regulates infringement notices and court-imposed penalties for non-compliance with certain provisions of the Act.
- Giving authorised investigations officers the power to enter premises with consent and require hirers to produce documents relevant to an investigation.