ATO determination concerns for owner-drivers

The Victorian Transport Association (ATA), the Australian Road Transport Industrial Organisation (ARTIO) and the Transport Workers Union TWU) are among industry groups concerned about a recent Australian Taxation Office (ATO) determination that will reduce the amount drivers can claim for travel on their tax returns.
ATO Determination TD 2017/19, issued on 3 July, has reduced the ‘reasonable amount’ that an owner-driver may claim for travel expenses without substantiation by $42.10, which translates to a 43 per cent reduction.
Peter Anderson, CEO, VTA, in his capacity as Secretary and Treasurer of the ARTIO, has written to the ATO to express concern about the lack of consultation with industry about the determination, along with the impact such a significant reduction will have on the individual drivers and their income.
“We are amazed the ATO has made such a far-reaching determination that will leave drivers and their families so significantly out-of-pocket without bothering to inform the industry,” Anderson said.
“Equally concerning are flow-on effects the determination will have on Enterprise Bargaining Agreements (EBAs) that had already factored in the previous rate. We have highlighted to the ATO that employers, who have had EBAs specifying amounts payable in these circumstances approved by the Fair Work Commission, could now be in breach of legal obligations because of the change.
“Regrettably, the impact of the ATO changing its view on what is a ‘reasonable amount’ for a driver to claim for a meal will be on their health and wellbeing because there is less money for them to spend on healthier foods, which usually cost more.”
The ARTIO has requested an urgent meeting with the ATO to discuss the determination, which it feels requires immediate review and amendment.

TWU demands apology from Royal Commission

The Transport Workers’ Union has demanded a formal apology from the Royal Commission after a two-year investigation failed to find any new information into the trade union.

Almost 1 million dollars’ worth of members’ money was spent in answering questions from the Commission, as the TWU cooperated fully with the investigation into official misconduct within the Western Australia branch.

According to TWU National Secretary Tony Sheldon, the union represents transport employees working in jobs that have the highest rate of workplace fatalities in Australia.

“We are happy to discuss with the Government changes which would strengthen governance in trade unions. But we will not support ideologically motivated, hastily-drafted legislation which imparts unfairly on union members,” Sheldon said.

In criticising the Commission’s findings, Sheldon believed that major Australian and foreign companies were continuing to evade tax with little government reprimand.

While Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has made statements about seriously strengthening trade unions, Sheldon said that support should be given to the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal to defend drivers and transport companies against reduced safety conditions through low cost contracts.

Contentious laws cracking down on union misconduct will be reintroduced next year following a damning royal commission report.

Commissioner Dyson Heydon released his final report on Wednesday, with 79 recommendations and 93 referrals to authorities for further investigation.

He has referred the Australian Workers' Union and the former head of the union's Victorian branch, Victorian Labor MP Cesar Melhem, to prosecutors for possible corruption and false accounting charges.

Transport union takes action against Jetstar

The Transport Workers’ Union will apply to the Fair Work Commission for good faith bargaining orders against Jetstar. The union is seeking the orders in response to threats by Jetstar that it would ground the airline, similar to the 2011 action of its parent company Qantas.

TWU National Secretary Tony Sheldon said: “The travelling public has a right to know that at Christmas time they are being used as pawns by Jetstar in how it treats its workforce. Hardworking aviation workers have a right to negotiate for better conditions without being threatened with being shut out of their jobs.”

TWU said Jetstar employees are the lowest paid workers directly employed by the Qantas group. After 12 months of negotiations Jetstar is still demanding an 18-month wage freeze; demanding workers be available for a six-day week without overtime; and refusing to bring job classifications into line with industry standards. 

“Aviation is an industry marked by the fact that 21 per cent earn below the poverty line of $863 for a couple with two children. Jetstar is owned by Qantas, a company which today forecast it will make up to $1 billion profit in the first six months of 2016. While its workforce are struggling to pay bills the company is paying its chief executive $12 million,” Sheldon said.

“Management have refused to constructively discuss our claims to ensure the workforce is able to earn a decent and fair wage. Jetstar’s tactics are more akin to the bargaining style of 18th century Victorian industrialists rather than a modern airline,” he added.

The TWU has written to Jetstar ahead of lodging an application to the Fair Work Commission today under the Fair Work Act 2009 which dictates that bargaining representatives must meet good faith bargaining requirements.

Coalition IR policy will affect road safety: TWU


The Transport Workers Union has condemned plans by the coalition government to review the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal, claiming it could put the safety of workers at risk.

National secretary of the TWU, Tony Sheldon, said the opposition’s plan to review the tribunal if elected in September, ignored evidence collected over twenty years that shows a direct relationship between pay and conditions for truck drivers and road safety.

“It is disappointing that the Coalition’s policy on Fair Work Laws has taken a deeply misguided position on the issues of safe rates of pay for truck drivers and safety on our roads. Hundreds of people are killed in truck crashes each year and thousands more are injured. More than twenty years of evidence has shown time and again the link between pay and related conditions for truck drivers and safety on our roads,” said Sheldon.

Sheldon pointed to a report t undertaken for the National Transport Commission by Hon Lance Wright QC and Professor Michael Quinlan that he said confirmed the obvious link between working conditions and road safety in 2008.

The report stated that:


There is solid evidence linking payment levels and systems to crashes, speeding, driving while fatigued and drug use.  This evidence has been accepted and indeed confirmed by government inquiries, coronial inquests, courts and industrial tribunal hearings in Australia over a number of years.


Sheldon said research by Professor Michael Belzer showed that every 10% increase in drivers’ pay rate is associated with an 18.7% lower probability of crash.

“It was because of the weight of this evidence and testimony from countless truckies about the pressures they are under, that the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal was established last year and it is desperately needed to ensure we have an efficient and safe transport system,” Sheldon said.


“The argument that pushing truckies to the edge doesn’t place lives at risk fails the test of common sense. Truck drivers just want to do their job and get home safely, but the aggressive behaviour of major clients like Coles means that drivers are constantly under pressure to cut corners and push the envelope.


“Results from a recent national survey of more than 950 truckies show that 40% of drivers in the Coles supply chain have had to delay vehicle maintenance because of economic pressures. These corporations are misusing their corporate power, and road users are paying the price.”

Queensland owner driver and Australian Trucking Association general council member Frank Black said he was concerned for the safety of drivers if the tribunal was abolished by a coalition government.

“I’ve seen too many people killed or seriously injured in truck crashes because of the pressures placed on truckies. It doesn't make sense- why would the Coalition want to review the best shot we have ever had to stop the carnage on our roads?”


Transport union slams Coalition’s IR policy

The Transport Workers Union has criticised the Coalition's plan to review a body tasked with setting pay rates for truck drivers, and called the party's new industrial relations policy “deeply misguided”.

In the Coalition's new IR policy released this week, the party made a commitment to review the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal.


The independent tribunal was set up last year in an effort to improve safety by dealing with wage and employment issues and disputes.


In announcing the new policy Opposition leader Tony Abbott said the Productivity Commission would re-examine the body as part of a wider review of the Fair Work Act.


“We do reserve the right to make changes to that, given that we've already had union officials publicly say that there is no link between rates and safety and that there are far better ways to ensure that, as far as is humanly possible, we have safety in our transport system,” he said.


TWU national secretary Tony Sheldon said twenty years of research showed a “direct relationship” between pay and conditions for truck drivers.


“It is disappointing that the Coalition’s policy on Fair Work Laws has taken a deeply misguided position on the issues of safe rates of pay for truck drivers and safety on our roads. Hundreds of people are killed in truck crashes each year and thousands more are injured. More than twenty years of evidence has shown time and again the link between pay and related conditions for truck drivers and safety on our roads,” he said.


“The argument that pushing truckies to the edge doesn’t place lives at risk fails the test of common sense. Truck drivers just want to do their job and get home safely, but the aggressive behaviour of major clients like Coles means that drivers are constantly under pressure to cut corners and push the envelope.”  

Truckers fight for safe rates with 275 pairs of shoes

Transport workers are delivering a stark warning on safety with a truck loaded with 275 pairs of shoes.

The Drive for Safe Rates campaign, organised by the ITF-affiliated Transport Workers’ Union (TWU), left Queensland and is travelling through New South Wales and Victoria before ending its journey in Adelaide.

On board the truck are 275 pairs of shoes, which represent the lives lost in heavy vehicle incidents in the 12 months to March 2008.

Last year the number of truck-related road deaths increased by about five per cent, while wages across the industry were pulled down by six per cent.

The TWU argues the high fatality rate was the result of the unfair wages and unreasonable deadlines imposed on the truck drivers by major retailers, forcing them to drive faster.

It says the National Transport Commission has committed to investigate the current remuneration system for truckers and make recommendations for reform.

Welcoming the move, TWU national secretary Tony Sheldon said: “Drivers are crying out for a national system that gives drivers the ability to obtain a safe rate of pay and seek full cost recovery from the powerful transport clients like the major retailers to get relief from rising costs of living, rising costs of maintaining a safe truck and fuel spikes.”

Transport unions, don’t blame us: Woolworths

While the trucking industry continues to attack major retailers arguing they are refusing to pay fuel levies to drivers, Woolworths has said the industry is wrongfully placing the blame on the company.

Following a union-led protest staged at Rosehill, Woolworth has issued a statement saying the Transport Workers Union (TWU)’s claim against the company was “unfounded”.

“Contrary to TWU spin, Woolworths pay appropriate national fuel levies to all its transport providers and these are reviewed on a regular basis,” it said.

“Woolworths understands that there is genuine hardship across the transport industry and it is our expectation, and our transport providers’ responsibility, that these fuel levies are passed onto any drivers who are subcontracted by our direct transport providers.”

TWU has previously stated the major retailers like Coles and Woolworths increase the costs of goods using the rising fuel costs as an excuse, yet the levy is not passed down the transport chain to the drivers.

Woolworths added it recently wrote to its major transport providers requesting their assurance that they treat their subcontractors fairly regarding the issue.

It said while the company’s transport costs have soared, its extensive management strategy has enabled it to keep the food price inflation level at 2.9 per cent, below the national figure of around four per cent.

“As a company that depends on transport, Woolworths accepts that higher fuel prices are a fact of life and is investing heavily in more efficient technologies and trialling alternative fuels.

“Innovation and best practice leadership in transport are the direct result of investments made by major businesses such as Woolworths.”

The company said the industry needs to stop playing the blame game over fuel prices, and start to collaborate.

“All sectors of the logistics industry must work together to ensure that we can meet the challenges ahead rather than unfairly placing blame on selected participants,” it said.

Truck drivers taken off 457 visa

Some road transport driver categories are to be removed from the list of eligible occupations for the temporary business subclass 457 visa program as changes come into effect from July 1 this year.

The changes follow the final report to government of the Trucking Industry Working Group, endorsed by immigration minister Chris Evans.

Based on submissions from interested and relevant parties, the report found that while slight growth was expected for the occupation of truck driver over the next five years, the program is insufficient to provide the industry with a permanent solution to workforce issues.

Also among the findings was the lack of uniformity across Australia in licensing requirements for heavy vehicle drivers, which is causing confusion among employers.

The report recommended that the immigration minister agrees to remove access to the subclass 457 visa for the occupation of driver and to explore options for the permanent entry of overseas truck drivers.

To mitigate workplace issues, the report also said Austroads needs to expedite the implementation of policy, which requires overseas visitors who intend to drive a vehicle for commercial purpose to obtain an Australian-issued licence prior to commencing employment.

The 457 visa program has previously entailed eight areas of employment including driving, logistic management, warehousing, automotive computer control systems and trailer construction and repair.

The working group consists of representatives from organisations including the Department of Immigration and Citizenship, Employment and Workplace Relations, Transport Workers Union, Linfox, Australian Logistics Council and Monash University.

Interstate truckers to boycott Queensland

The Transport Workers Union (TWU) said the Queensland Government’s fuel subsidy scheme disregards interstate truck drivers and they could consider boycotting the state.

The State Government has recently announced changes to the 8-cents-per-litre deduction scheme to ensure the $540 million per annum subsidy goes directly to motorists with a Queensland driver’s licence. 

TWU state secretary Hughie Williams said while interstate truck drivers are already suffering from soaring fuel prices, they are excluded from the discount scheme.

“When they see this fuel discount that’s going to disregard interstate truckies, don’t be surprised if they simply say we won’t deliver freight to Queensland, and that could be a very serious problem,” Mr Williams told the ABC.

“Thousands of tonnes of goods and produce is being carted in and out of Queensland and those people spend many weeks of their time in Queensland.

“They’re going to get very, very annoyed and they’ve got every right to be very annoyed about it."

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