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Email letter from ICA to Federal MPs: Reject the TWU 'safety' con

16 December 2011

Dear Member of Parliament

Don't be conned by the Transport Workers Union.

In late November you received an email letter from Tony Sheldon, the boss of the Transport Workers Union. He implored you to support the Road Safety Remuneration Bill 2011 that the government introduced into parliament in the last sitting week of the year. In his email (below) Sheldon emotively claimed that the legislation is needed as a safety measure for trucking on Australian roads. What nonsense! What a con!

The real effect of the legislation would be to deliver massive power to the TWU to control trucking in Australia. It would cause a breach of competition principles and laws preventing price-fixing, increase road transport costs, reduce productivity and suppress driver incomes. It would not do anything to address road safety by truckers.

The facts are that:
  • Fair Work Australia already has control over drivers' award and EBA pay rates. If there is something wrong with these rates, the TWU should make application to FWA to have the rates changed. Why has the TWU not gone to the independent umpire and done this?
  • Road and work safety laws already impose heavy safety regulations and obligations on drivers and transport companies, as they should. The TWU should focus on these.
Rather, the Federal Bill has a different agenda to safety. Safety is the excuse, the mask to achieve a different outcome.

That agenda is to harm all self-employed, small business people in Australia who run their own trucking business, whether they have one truck or several. The Bill effectively treats all self-employed truckies as employees under FWA and TWU control and denies them the right to be their own business.

The government is wrong in moving this Bill. The government was wrong in 2010 when it blocked unfair contracts protections for self-employed small business people. The Opposition supported and continues to support these protections for self-employed people. Unfair contract protection laws can be passed and would address many of the contract problems in the transport sector.

Yet the government is giving a power leg-up to the TWU, based on false claims about safety.

We invite you to read our more extended analysis of the Bill and why it is wrong, a con, and should be rejected.


Ken Phillips
Executive Director
Independent Contractors Australia

Email from Tony Sheldon to Federal Members of Parliament

From: Tony Sheldon [mailto:tony.sheldon@twu.com.au]
Sent: Thursday, November 24, 2011 06:34 PM
To: undisclosed-recipients
Subject: A call for your support to save lives on our roads

Dear Member of Parliament,

The crisis on Australian roads deepens with each passing year, and the 'statistics' (each of which was a cared-for member of a community; a father, mother, sister, son, brother or daughter) are getting steadily worse.

The pressures that are placed on Australian truck drivers have been directly acknowledged by the Government. In August 2011, the Minister for Infrastructure and Transport Anthony Albanese said that "it is a fact that many truck drivers have been subject to unreasonable and unsafe directions or threats concerning their work because of the demands of powerful clients."

The most tragic consequence of the pressures that Australian truck drivers face everyday is that an average of 330 people are killed each year in the road transport industry, with the latest Department of Infrastructure and Transport figures [2010] showing that 72 per cent of those killed in crashes are the occupants of other vehicles. That is up 14 per cent on 2009.

The Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, has acknowledged how much more deadly the trucking industry is than any other: "Australia's truck drivers work hard to make a living. But they shouldn't have to die to make a living."

After that declaration, the Prime Minister set up the Safe Rates Advisory Group (SRAG) to advise the Government on options for legislative action to address the crisis. The SRAG report was handed to the Government after wide-ranging public consultation process was completed, and Minister Albanese has committed that the Government "intends to introduce legislation, if required, by the end of the year…"

Members of the Transport Workers' Union (TWU), which includes over 20,000 owner-driver small businesses, strongly support the Government's call for legislative action. We urge MPs to support the Road Safety Remuneration Bill 2011.

Tom, a 40-year-old driver from the central coast of NSW, was one of 715 drivers who filled in the recent Safe Rates Survey 2011 conducted by the TWU. Tom's words sum up the pressures and dangers of the industry:
    "I am doing 24 hours in unpaid waiting times a week. With trailers being loaded by (CLIENT NAME SUPPRESSED), I cannot afford to wait another hour or so unpaid while they unload and reload a set of trailers to get the legal weight. I carry overweight regularly and I don't have a choice."
One of the most disturbing parts of Tom's story is that, after his truck has been loaded, he has already been working for four to six hours without pay. This means that Tom's work day is only just starting and that he will be sitting in the cab---on our highways and in our cities and suburbs---for the next 12 hours, or until the load is done.

The future safety of Australian roads depends on immediate legislative action.

We all want a safe and sustainable transport industry---one that gives drivers like Tom a fighting chance of a safe return each night to his home and family.

Truck drivers that we represent strongly support the Government's legislative initiative. Please do not hesitate to contact the Transport Workers' Union if you would like to arrange a meeting with a driver to discuss the need for change, or for any further information, by calling Anne Cruikshank on (02) 8114 6500. Attached for your convenience is a briefing that was released at the Safe Rates Summit 2011 and a report written by Dr Michael Belzer that was also released at the Summit.

Yours sincerely,

Tony Sheldon
National Secretary

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