The push by several major trucking companies to leave State workers’ compensation systems combined with poor wages in the industry, particularly in the non-unionised sector, could worsen safety standards for drivers says the ACTU.
ACTU Secretary Jeff Lawrence will address a national meeting of transport workers in Brisbane today (Monday 19 May), held by the Transport Workers’ Union.
Mr Lawrence is calling for the Rudd Government’s new industrial relations laws to protect safe rates of pay and conditions for all truck drivers and ensure driver safety is maintained and improved.
Mr Lawrence said:
“It is a major concern that several large interstate trucking companies are seeking to leave their respective State workers’ compensation systems and self-insure under the federal Comcare scheme,” said Mr Lawrence.
“In the final hours of the former Howard Government, TNT, Fleetmaster Services, and Transpacific Industries were given approval by outgoing Minister Joe Hockey to apply to leave their State workers’ compensation systems.
“The incoming Rudd Government has rightly put a halt to further applications by large employers.
“But the cases of these major trucking companies to leave their State compensation system and self-insure are still being heard by the Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation Commission (SRCC) and submissions close tomorrow (Tuesday).
“The problem is that many truck drivers could be left with lower compensation payments from the federal scheme if they are injured on the roads.
“The current federal scheme, Comcare, has few workplace inspectors, a poor enforcement record and was set up to deal with a limited range of industries and occupations,” said Mr Lawrence.
Tony Sheldon, Federal Secretary of the Transport Workers’ Union said:
“National figures show 228 people died in heavy vehicle accidents in Australia in the year to July 2007.
 “We need to be lifting health and safety standards and rights to compensation for injured drivers, not lowering them.
“It is essential that the safety standards, pay and conditions of all truck drivers are maintained and lifted through the new industrial relations laws that the Rudd Labor Government is establishing post- Work Choices.”