Drivers seek compo over tribunal

Independent Contractors Australia executive director Ken Phillips told The Australian he estimated up to 1000 owner-drivers would seek compensation of more than a total of $100 million in a class action.

The Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal, established by Labor in 2012, was abolished last month after a new minimum payments regime forcing owner-drivers to charge higher prices triggered a ferocious backlash.

Owner-drivers warned the new regime would price more than 35,000 small business owners out of the market and force them to work for their larger and more heavily unionised competitors, which were not covered by the payment order.

The Transport Workers Union said the higher remuneration would reduce fatalities and improve road safety as Bill Shorten sought a compromise position, backing a delay to the introduction of the order and opposing any move to abolish the RSRT.

Mr Phillips yesterday said ICA was “facilitating” the class action but suggested it could take up to three months for the issue to come before the courts.

The legal move comes after the Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman was given a referral by government to conduct an “urgent inquiry” into the economic impact of the minimum payments order on owner-drivers.

Employment Minister Michaelia Cash announced the inquiry on Sunday, saying many owner-drivers had suffered “severe financial losses” during the period of the order. Many were unable to recover these costs, Senator Cash said.

She told The Australian yesterday: “This could have all been avoided if the RSRT had listened to the very people it claims it was trying to help.

“In a shocking display of confused priorities, comments in recent days by Labor candidates and members confirm that if elected a Shorten-led government will stop the trucks and start the boats.”

Mr Phillips said the ICA had received reports of losses in the order of $37,000 for typical truckies.