Opinion

A Conduit for Cooperation

a conduit for cooperation

It is pleasing to see the reaction on the part of several stakeholders in the trucking industry to the passing of the Closing Loopholes bill in parliament recently, it is not the RSRT lite, which we feared, but seems to be a conduit for cooperation.

Noises coming out, both from the union side, and from the employer side, seem to suggest that the two will be able to work together to improve economic and safety incomes for those operating trucks and those driving them. It’s what could be described as a win-win situation.

This situation is a welcome sea change after the long period in which union representatives, spoke aggressively about truck owners, as a whole, and representatives of the trucking industry had little, or no contact with those representing a large proportion of the trucking industry workforce.

Historically, the relationship has swung back-and-forth over the years, with improvements in the conditions and behaviour of the trucking industry coinciding with periods when the two sides of industry were working together and pulling in the same direction. The periods of disruption tended to coincide with those when there was a major divide between employers and employees.

When you look back in history at the mid 1980s, the relationship between the transport unions and employers was at an all-time low. In that period the trucking industry, and the Australian economy where disrupted by a series of blockades on Australian highways, normally the Hume. These not only caused a lot of disruption, but didn’t do much for the public image of trucking as a whole.

a conduit for cooperation
Image: Trucking Life 1990

Soon after, the chaos which followed a series of accidents involving trucks and buses, lead to state governments proposing massive crackdowns on trucking operators. this was the catalyst for a change of heart on both sides of the fence.

In the period from 1989, all of the way through to the early 2000s, we saw a great deal of cooperation between both sides of the industry with the Transport Workers Union sitting on the Australian Trucking Association board and working alongside industry. 

A change in attitude by both the employer side and the employee side around the early 2000s created friction, and the relationship did not function quite the same after that.

After this period, we ended up with the debacle known as the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal, which created chaos for the trucking industry, and led to the repeal of the tribunal by the government.

During this time, both sides of industry blamed the other for the problems that it created, and for the issues which flowed from that. Luckily, in recent years, both sides have taken a more conciliatory approach, and that level of cooperation has born fruit in the drafting of the Closing Loopholes Bill, which is a much more amenable set of rules for the industry to live with.

This development seems to reinforce the wisdom of that old phrase, ‘two heads are better than one’.

 

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