McArthur workers now political hot potato

The federal Workplace Relations Minister has told a group of people protesting outside his office it is up to the New South Wales Government to help owner drivers who worked for failed trucking company McArthur Express.

The Transport Workers Union wants a Federal Government scheme that has secured the wages and entitlements of the company’s employees expanded to include owner drivers and subcontractors.

Joe Hockey told protesters outside his North Sydney office that owner drivers were covered by the state industrial relations system.

Mr Hockey called on the State Government to protect the workers.

"They can’t pass the buck," he said. "They actually have to do their job and they leave poor people like [these people] here out in the lurch.

"I’m not going to let the matter rest and I’m not going to let the State Government off the hook after they demanded responsibility for this area of law and now they are walking away.

"I think that is terrible."

But the NSW Industrial Relations Minister, John Della Bosca, says he will not budge, despite a second day of demands by the Federal Government.

He says it is not the State Government’s responsibility to help the owner drivers.

"Mr Hockey is playing political games with these people’s livelihoods," he said.

"He could fix this scheme with the stroke of a pen. He knows the point that they are treated by state legislation and all other practical purposes as employees.

"He’s stubbornly refusing to vary his legislation because he is playing politics with hardworking Australians livelihoods."

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