Victoria will in­tro­duce new laws for owner driv­ers fol­low­ing a re­view of its Owner Driv­ers and Forestry Con­trac­tors Act which started in 2016

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Victoria will in­tro­duce new laws for owner-driv­ers fol­low­ing a re­view of its Own­erDriver­sandForestryCon­trac­tors (OFDC) Act, which started in 2016.

Vic­to­rian Min­is­ter for In­dus­trial Re­la­tions Natalie Hutchins says the re­view un­cov­ered wide­spread non-com­pli­ance by busi­nesses, which meant driv­ers were not be­ing paid on time, and were thus at a com­pet­i­tive dis­ad­van­tage. “The new laws will put an end to this,” she says.

The OFDC’s joint ne­go­ti­a­tion pro­vi­sions will change – re­quir­ing hir­ing com­pa­nies to of­fer con­trac­tors ex­ist­ing site agree­ments, rather than rene­go­ti­at­ing a new con­tract for ev­ery new owner-driver.

The govern­ment will also close a loop­hole that has kept some owner-driv­ers from be­ing able to ac­cess the Vic­to­rian Small Busi­ness Com­mis­sion and the Vic­to­rian Civil and Ad­min­is­tra­tive Tri­bunal.

In ad­di­tion to this, the Small Busi­ness Com­mis­sion will make a low-cost, bind­ing dis­pute res­o­lu­tion process avail­able for owner driv­ers, for them to use to set­tle dis­putes such as the ter­mi­na­tion of a con­tract. Owner-driv­ers will also have ac­cess to the govern­ment’s newly an­nounced Vic­to­rian Wage In­spec­torate, set up last month with a man­date to pro­mote “fair in­dus­trial re­la­tions prac­tices and bet­ter ed­u­ca­tion, com­pli­ance and en­force­ment of state-based em­ploy­ment laws”.

The in­spec­torate will en­force le­gal changes re­quir­ing com­pa­nies to pay in­voices within 30 days, as well as any other penal­ties for non-com­pli­ance and fail­ing to pro­vide rate and cost sched­ules and writ­ten con­tracts.

Trans­port Work­ers Union (TWU) Vic­to­rian and Tas­ma­nian branch sec­re­tary John Berger wel­comed the pol­icy change, say­ing they would help en­sure own­er­drivers and on-de­mand work­ers were not ex­ploited or forced into un­safe prac­tices.

Na­tional Road Trans­port As­so­ci­a­tion (NatRoad) chief ex­ec­u­tive War­ren Clark wel­comed early prom­ises that the the new bill would en­sure driv­ers are paid within 30 days of is­su­ing an in­voice, though he says it would be bet­ter if this were part of a code for the in­dus­try in­tro­duced in Com­mon­wealth leg­is­la­tion.

He also urged the govern­ment not to im­pose man­dated rates of pay for owner-driv­ers, say­ing it would harm the driv­ers that it aimed to pro­tect.

“From the terms of the min­is­ter’s an­nounce­ment, it seems that this el­e­ment of reg­u­la­tion is not to pro­ceed, but the devil will be in the de­tail of the Bill,” he says. “We re­main sat­is­fied that the vol­un­tary com­po­nents of the cur­rent scheme work well and the need to man­date penal­ties for fail­ure to pro­vide a writ­ten con­tract, for ex­am­ple, may ad­versely im­pact busi­ness.”

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