Industry News

‘This is huge in terms of the ability to improve this industry’

After much political debate, the Closing Loopholes Bill is now the new framework for helping industry to meet minimum standards.

How the new workplace relations legislation will play out is yet to be fully unravelled. 

What we do know is that two industrial relations bodies, the Transport Workers’ Union (TWU) and the Australian Road Transport Industrial Organisation (ARTIO) will make up the newly formed Road Transport Advisory Group (RTAG) that will report to the Fair Work Commission.

Chances are you know already about the work the TWU does, but the ARTIO, which has been around since 1984, isn’t so well known.

We caught up with ARTIO national secretary Peter Anderson, who is also the CEO of the Victorian Transport Association, to find out more, what role ARTIO played in getting the bill over the line, and what could lie ahead in the new closing loopholes-era.

What exactly is the ARTIO and what does it do?

Peter Anderson: The Australian Road Transport Industrial Organisation is a registered body within the Fair Work Commission, under the old Registered Organisations Commission, that represents employers in the transport industry [with three or more trucks], and we’re the only registered organisation for employers in the Fair Work Commission road freight industry.

What that means is we go up against the TWU in industrial relations cases. We represent the employers, the TWU representing the employees. Historically, we’re the opposition to the TWU.

Why did the ARTIO and TWU put aside their differences on this occasion and take a bipartisan approach?

Anderson: The difficult part through this process is that there’s been a strong political push outside of the road freight industry, one upon which employers think they have a natural enemy in the union, and they must continually put up opposition and fight them.

ARTIO has taken a different position in this particular case and issue and said, ‘Hang on, we would rather be in the tent, helping change and guide and formulate the future, rather than throwing stones from outside, once it’s all over.’ 

So, for the past five years, ARTIO and TWU have been talking about how this framework will actually come about affecting the road freight industry. 

We’ve said we can do better than this. Why do we have to be like kids in a sandpit? Why do we continually have to antagonise each other and dismiss anything that might be positive for the industry on the basis that we simply can’t agree with you because you’re the other side.

That’s why we made a decision some time ago to get in involved with this process, looking for an outcome similar to the one that we’ve got, upon which we know that we can make a difference, a positive difference to the future of many people that work in our industry in generations to come. 

I was quite happy to see the back end of the RSRT, but from there I can remember sitting down with Michael Kaine [TWU national secretary] and saying the framework was okay but the execution was appalling. At first, we were antagonistic toward each other, but we started to realise that our real goal isn’t to feather our own personal nests, or to make our own organisations bigger, it was really to try and improve the industry, so we found common ground.

Safe rates had been the union push for nearly 10 years and I said you can’t do that. The employers won’t pay safe rates. Paying people more money to be safer isn’t going to work. What we have to look at is minimum standards and from that point forward, that became the terminology.

So, what we want to see is a minimum standard that people have to abide by to ensure that their people are safe, that the industry is sustainable, is efficient, and we’re able to make a buck. 

Of course, they said, ‘Yeah, we get it, okay’.

Their push was not to put leg irons around transport companies but to actually try and bring the customers and third parties into account and bring them into the chain.

That’s one of the issues we’ve had, the chain of responsibility hasn’t been effective enough. The original principal was good, but we can’t get past the truck owner in the application of the CoR.

The real issue for me is that CoR isn’t enforced or enacted in a way to change behaviour within a multi-stakeholder supply chain process.

How does the new bill improve the CoR process?

Anderson: We believe that with the process of having the RTAG, reporting through an expert panel, handing down an order for 12 months that can be rescinded, then waiting for 12 months before it becomes a decision, means that our industry has an opportunity to identify the real problems and gaps within the supply chain process.

That includes the third parties and additional stakeholders, including customers. It brings them all into account through the process and ensures they are all operating with the same momentum and outcome and understanding.

We want free enterprise, and we won’t businesses to be able to thrive through competition and we want to also ensure we can also be safe and drive productivity, but we have lots of different gaps in all the different sectors. There are over 40 different sectors in the road freight industry and they all operate separately with their own set of issues and problems.

[Anderson here cites the example of a fictional sleep-deprived Sydney linehaul subbie who’s kept waiting for hours after a warehouse bumps his slot, only to meet a tragic demise further up the road]. Who’s really at fault? Who made sure he couldn’t get his rest? The warehouse manager. Why, because the manager had a set of rules and expectations from his boss to meet and he didn’t give a rats about the bloke sitting outside.

What we want is a process to address those contractual chain issues that will then say, ‘Hang on Mr warehouse man, you have to make sure this fellow’s out of here within the hour. Otherwise, you’re in breach of the order and you could be up for thousands.’

We hope we only have to do one warehouse before they get the message, otherwise, we’ll go through them one by one. After the first one, it will be a lot easier, we won’t have to do such intense investigation or reporting because there will be a process upon which evidence is created.

But we’re hoping that there will be behavioural change based on the fact that people will be held accountable in their workplace for specific workplace breaches. 

Do you have to be an ARTIO member to reap the benefits?

Anderson: No, it’s not a push for new members. But we will be looking to attract sub-contractors, that broad-based cohort, into discussions because they’re the ones that are disadvantaged the most on a more regular basis. You can write to the RTAG and ask for a specific case to be examined and a an expert committee will be put together to examine, or gain evidence that needs to be presented. 

Will it just be the ARTIO and TWU deciding the industry’s fate?

Anderson: No. Or we’re doing is facilitating the issues that are brought to investigation. We’ll be making no decisions about outcomes. We’ll be looking for people to bring issues to the table, saying this is what the problem is. This is what we think. We’ll say, ‘Great, let’s investigate it and get the team together. Let’s get some experts, find someone who knows a bit more about this than anyone else and try and work out which way we should go.’ The ARTIO won’t be deciding what happens. We want the sub-committees [in each sector] to be doing that and making the recommendations to the expert panel made up of Fair Work commissioners.

We will be looking for the recommendations based on the issue that’s originally raised to see whether there is an ability for them to be able to put an order in place that will benefit that workplace. And whereby that will be there for months in draft form. If it doesn’t work, it can be rescinded. We’re not trying to say, I’ve got a big stick and you have to do what you’re told. The RTAG doesn’t have this jurisdiction control. It’s a conduit, that’s mostly all it is. The real control still sits with the Fair Work Commission and the commissioners. They’re accountable to a system that has to work, otherwise it gets rescinded. 

You mentioned earlier that a 30-day payment order might be an early change. What are some of the others ARTIO would like to see?

Anderson: Meeting time slot times. You can go to any industry sector you like after that, it depends on which one get picks gets picked on, so to speak. The customers who don’t make their time slot time have got to be accountable. Otherwise, don’t give me a time slot, just let me turn up. 

Where does this reform rank for you?

Anderson: This is one of the biggest changes that I have seen in 30 or 40 years. 

This is absolutely huge in terms of the ability to be able to improve this industry, bring the industry together, and to ensure that there is a conformity and uniformity.

What we’re creating is an ability to take action on the issues that we know are already there. Yes, we’ve had these committees, we’ve had these discussions, but we’ve had no structure upon which to address them in any format. 

We’ve had CoR responsibility come in; it doesn’t go past the truck owner. I’ve been to the NHVR. I’ve asked them about our people with the time slots in the warehouses. 

They said we’ll have to go into the warehouse and get evidence. We haven’t got the ability to do that. So CoR stops outside with the truck?

Well, that’s not good enough. It’s got to be the contractual chain throughout the supply chain process that’s accountable all the way through. 

We haven’t had this ability before. That’s the thing. This won’t be looked upon as the same old, same old. Now we’re getting the ability to actually do something.


The post ‘This is huge in terms of the ability to improve this industry’ appeared first on Big Rigs.

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