How willFair Work Australia affect bus and coach industry?

By: Chris Smith

The Fair Work Australia Bill introduced into Parliament House by Julia Gillard on November 2 signals a reverse the Howard

The Fair Work Australia Bill introduced into Parliament House by Julia Gillard on November 2 signals a reverse the Howard Government’s WorkChoices legislation, but what does this mean for the Bus and Coach industry in Australia?

Bus Industry Confederation (BIC) Executive Director Michael Apps says the industry has been working hard on the issue for months because it has implications for existing arrangements for all operators in each State of Australia.

Apps says BIC has been asked to facilitate an Industry Working Group, (IWG).

"The IWG’s objective is to address and manage these important Industrial changes and work through the implications of the new legislation the Government has introduced," he says.

The Industry Working Group is chaired by Darryl Mellish, Executive Director of BusNSW and the Secretariat for the IWG is being provided through BusNSW and the steady hands of Ian (Macca) Macdonald.

The participants on the IWG are each of the Executive Directors of each State Association and their respective Industrial Relations experts and members of the BIC Urban Bus Group membership.

The group has been working very diligently over the last few months involving the presentation of a range of submissions to the Australian Industrial Relations Commission(AIRC), meetings with Julia Gillard’s office and the TWU and several IWG meetings, the next to be held in Melbourne on 12 December.

"There are a number of aspects of the new legislation that are important to understand over the next few years as the legislation takes effect," says Apps.

"The key aspect for Industry at present is the Award modernisation process which has been underway for the past 6-8 months.

"The Award modernisation process put simply, is an attempt by the Government through the AIRC to reduce the number of awards that operate across Australia for all occupations from thousands down to a couple of hundred," he says.

Apps explains for the Bus and Coach Industry, Stage 3 of the Award modernisation process will encompass a modern private transport (passenger only) Award which is set to take place in March 2009.

"This doesn’t give Industry a lot of time to get this right and influence the outcome and decision that will be presented by the AIRC," he stresses.

"The Modern Award will commence January 1, 2010 and reviewed every four years thereafter."

The Industry Working Group is seeking a single Bus and Coach Land Transport Award.

"Our first challenges is to convince the AIRC, the TWU and RTBU and others that the bus and coach sector as part of the Private Transport (passenger only Award) should have it’s own specific Award due to the unique nature of the contracted route and school services and our clear difference to other passenger services such as taxi, limousines and so on," explains Apps.

A second key challenge, not only for Industry but for State Governments is that the Bill provides that Modern Awards must not contain terms and conditions of employment that are determined by reference to State boundaries.

In other words the existing varied arrangements that exist in each Award in each State somehow have to come together under a modern National Award.

This has serious implications for all operators but also clearly could mean a significant rise in the cost of bus public transport and bus school services in many States.

"A joint approach is required to address this and the IWG’s objective is to achieve this. Issues such as long service leave, salary sacrifice, minimum wages and salary grades to name a few require an agreed joint industry approach," explains Apps.

"Rates of pay, minimum engagements, and payment of overtime for excess hours worked and spread of hours must be the same for all States.

"The IWG position is that transitional arrangements will be needed to protect different rates of pay and terms in each State," he says.

The Fair Work Australia Bill provides for transitional arrangements that end after 5 years.

The IWG will be seeking to have the allowable transitional conditions applied to a Bus and Coach Land Transport Award and at the same time hold discussion with each State Government in regard the implications of the Modern Award process as it is currently headed for the bus and coach industry.

The legislation hasn’t been passed yet, so the intricacies and affects of the legislation are yet to be nutted out.

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