Rip-off rate the norm
The road transport industry is unique in many ways, particularly the method used in working out how drivers are paid or, more precisely, underpaid. The Interstater writes
DIDN’T THAT set the cat among the pigeons? Going by the massive amount of feedback received about my September column, it’s painfully obvious there are far more truck drivers in this country that don’t know just how much they are being ripped off. Fewer know how much, while even fewer still don’t know just how it is being orchestrated.
Being ripped off has been as much a part of trucking as freight, fuel or round tyres, but it has not been dealt with like it deserves.
It is endemic, widespread, and has been going on for so long it has unwittingly become expected.
It’s time to address it head-on by everyone – drivers, owner-drivers, government bodies and, ultimately, every single employer in this industry.
Because if it isn’t rectified soon, the past devastation will increase to much higher levels than ever before due to the ridiculous increase in the use of road trains east of the Western Australian border and up the whole length of the east coast of Australia.
It shouldn’t have surprised as many people as it has that the way pays are made up is not right. It’s plain and simple: if you get paid the antiquated (and hopefully soon to be obsolete) way of ‘X’ amount per kilometre then you must pay tax on that amount. If you don’t, you run the risk of being audited by the Australian Taxation Office (ATO).
You’ll not only be made to make up the shortfall that your employer has failed to pay on your behalf, but a substantial fine as well.
The next step the majority of employers do, which is totally and completely wrong, is before figuring out just how much of what they consider ‘their money’ they have to fork out to the ATO. They choose to remove the living away from home allowance (LAHA), which is a tax-free benefit, so it is completely different to the kilometre rate of monies that are taxable. No doubt you have all been told that it is to reduce ‘your’ tax each week. Well, not so. It is to reduce the amount of money that they have to give the ATO.
It also reduces their WorkCover premium and their payroll tax. It also reduces your holiday pay rate and it actually reduces the amount of superannuation that they must pay you because they have also been able to convince the ATO that you are to be paid less super per week.
Superannuation is paid on an employee’s base rate, and our base rate is ‘X’ cents per kilometre.
Super is a guaranteed amount that is to be paid, currently at 9.5 per cent of your base rate. What’s that? You’re not? Well join the club.
It’s the same as the BS about getting paid to do pick-ups and deliveries they say is built into the kilometre rate.
It’s pretty darn good for them but not so for 99 per cent of drivers.
How have they been able to convince anyone that it is okay to add a few pennies to the kilometre rate for a delivery that can be after a distance of well over a few hundred kilometres or more than 1000km? It simply doesn’t compute.
It’s the same with fuelling up the truck you drive. They say it’s all part of the job, but it still averages out to losing a couple of hours per week, which equates to well over 100 hours per year. That’s a hell of a lot of money, and once again you lose.
The only logical way of getting back to anywhere near where we need to be when it comes to full wage recovery (FWR) is to do what the majority of Australians do, and that is start getting paid by the hour.
And let’s not forget that, like a local driver, we should be entitled to time and a half after doing the first eight hours, then after two more hours have expired we should be paid double time.
It’s just like local drivers have insisted, while we have been taken for a ride. Let’s not forget what all this means to an owner-driver.
As we should all know, an ownerdriver is only valued at the rate which is in direct contrast to what a company long-distance truck driver is costing to do the same job.
WHAT PAY RISE?
The thing that was most requested to be explained from people enquiring about last month’s column was how, what, when, and who had to pay the 3.3 per cent pay rise on July 1 this year. And who was supposed to receive it. It’s easily answered with a copy of the memo sent out to all employer members of NatRoad.
But the surprised reply after it was pointed out to the employers (who were in fact NatRoad members) was that they didn’t know anything about the pay rise. They wanted more information. No problem, it’s pretty easy to get a copy of the latest award. Job done, or so you would think.
It’s amazing that employers think an enterprise bargaining agreement (EBA) that hasn’t been sighted by every one of its employees, let alone agreed upon, is valid.
Now let’s be crystal clear, if you haven’t been given a copy of the current EBA that you are supposed to be employed under, then your employer is in breach of employment law. If you have not received a copy of the existing EBA at the time of voting on a new EBA, then you are not in a position to make an informed decision on the new EBA, which makes it an unlawful EBA arrangement.
The other elephant in the room is who is entitled to this 3.3 per cent. Unfortunately, the common misnomer is that any current EBA can encumbrance this latest award increase. Sorry, wrong perception guys.
The best way to explain it is if you are fortunate enough to have bargained your way to, let’s say, a 10 per cent above the award EBA, then good luck to you. But that 10 per cent isn’t to be reduced now just because the award has rightfully risen by 3.3 per cent. If that was the case it would equate to a 3.3 per cent pay reduction.
The gap between your EBA and the award is so because it was argued against the award, as it was at the time of bargaining your EBA. So if this 3.3 per cent isn’t given to you and your work group, then your EBA has been compromised, which in effect makes it null and void – and it’s back to the bargaining table.
To be honest, I am yet to see an EBA that is better than the award, when you take into account every penalty you have lost through your EBA. It might be a good time to suggest that if you are lucky enough to be in the middle of an EBA negotiation, then it would be the perfect time to get with the concept of making it all about going to the better option of being paid by the hour, from the time you grab the keys till the time you give them back at the end of the week or shift, with the exclusion of any time spent sleeping or eating. This will create a much fairer system for you, the breadwinner of your family, being paid what you are really worth.
BIGGER, NOT BETTER
Road trains are very impressive, large and tough looking. They have a bit of old school about them, but do we need them? I say ‘no’. I expect to get paid for all I do, so that counts me out.
How many people would think that anyone driving one on the east coast would be paid at a much higher rate than a B-double driver? Well, think again. Remarkably, road train drivers have been conned into believing they are only entitled to the same money as a B-double driver because, after all, there are only two trailers.
They seem to forget about the third pivot point that makes it that much harder to reverse out of danger, or to take it off a major route to avoid road closures, fires, floods, crashes and the like. There are many reasons the extra money that it is supposed to attract is more than warranted and earned.
I received word that one such very large Australia-wide company has a few road trains running around South Australia, and it is only paying the B-double rate because the drivers are still trying to get their EBA finalised after five years.
It’s no secret that one particular manager is well known for making his feelings heard about his belief that drivers are overpaid as it is. In his learned opinion no extra money is justified at all.
That mob is not alone with its ‘we will pay what we think is enough’ attitude. There is also a large mob that prefers road train tippers as their ‘underpaying, road transport-destroying monstrosities’.
It is not just up to drivers to get something done about this massive unfolding anomaly. It is in everyone’s best interest to get these rates of pay sorted. As we have all seen time and time again, it’s because the minority flout the Federal Award for drivers that gives them another unfair advantage when sliding around like a snake, undercutting your rates as well.
Every two road trains put one single trailer subbie further down the food chain. It’s already started, so don’t blame me when your work starts to dry up and perhaps even disappears completely.
THE INTERSTATER THE VOICE OF THE TRUCK DRIVER