TRUCKIES across the country say they face financial ruin after the Transport Workers Union won a legal battle in the Federal Court to introduce new mandatory minimum pay rates.
The Federal Court of Australia on Thursday dismissed an application to stop the introduction of controversial changes to the conditions of self-employed truck drivers.
The three judges on the bench also refused an interim stay of the order until April 11, to enable the National Road Transport Association to apply for special leave to appeal the decision in the High Court of Australia.
The drivers claim they will be go out of business if the order goes through as they will be forced to charge well above market rates, but TWU national secretary Tony Sheldon has described the claims as a “myth”.
Independent Contractors Australia executive director Ken Phillips told The Australian: “Now is the start date for the bankruptcies, family breakups, people losing their houses and the suicides.”
The legality of the controversial order, developed by the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal, will be dealt with at a hearing in May.
Federal Labor says it has taken the side of road users in a row over new minimum load rates for contract truck drivers.
Owner-operators are up in arms over a decision by the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal to introduce the new rates from April 4, a move delayed by the Federal Court.
Unsafe rates forced truck drivers to take excessive risks which harmed their own safety as well as other road users, Mr Shorten told reporters in Brisbane on Thursday.
In a statement on Friday, NatRoad chief executive Warren Clark said he was dismayed by the decision. “This country was built on the hardworking people that this legislation will send to the wall,” he said.
“Throughout this fight, we have been at the coal face working for our members and all small to medium transport businesses.”
Mr Clark said NatRoad could no longer justify the excessive cost of pursuing legal action. “Sadly, NatRoad has exhausted its legal challenge and fought the Order as far as possible in the courts,” he said.
“The fate of 35,000 mum-and-dad business now lies in the hands of the politicians. The people we elect to run this country need to open their eyes and view the real effect that this legislation will have on many of the people who vote for them.
“Minister Cash will introduce a bill into parliament at the next sitting and the people of Australia that make this country a great place to live will be able to see who is prepared to support them. We strongly urge every Parliamentarian to support the government’s Bill.
“Until then, NatRoad will be here to help sort through the absolute mess that the RSRT and the Fairwork Ombudsman have created.”
WHY OWNER-OPERATOR TRUCKIES ARE UNHAPPY
THE ROAD SAFETY REMUNERATION TRIBUNAL
• Established by the Gillard government in 2012, ostensibly to create “safe” rates of pay for road transport drivers.
• Critics say it substantially increased the power of the Transport Workers Union.
WHAT THE TRIBUNAL DECIDED
• New minimum payment rates for full or part trailer loads driven by contractor drivers to take effect from April 4.
• Owner-operator drivers say the new rates threaten their livelihood because they don’t apply to big transport companies that employ their own drivers.
FEDERAL COURT INTERVENTION
• Stays implementation of new rates.
WHAT THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT PROPOSES
• Introduce legislation to parliament in mid-April that delays new rates until 2017.
• Likely move to abolish the tribunal.