BREAKING NEWS: Qld, SA, WA operators face wage hike

By: Graham Gardiner

Bus, coach and hire-car operators in Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia face wage hikes under the draft Passenger Vehicle

Bus, coach and hire-car operators in Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia face wage hikes under the draft Passenger Vehicle Transportation Award released last Friday by the Australian Industrial Relations Commission (AIRC).

Under the industrial instrument, released as part of stage three of the AIRC’s award modernisation process, from 2010 private and public sector passenger transport operators, including hire cars, buses/coaches, electric tramways, monorails and light rail, would be covered by a single, streamlined award.

It would cover full-time employees, engaged at a minimum four hours per day, part-time employees, also engaged a minimum of four hours per day, and casual employees who receive a minimum of three hours per shift.

Significantly, the award would introduce six grade classifications based on a mix of skills, responsibilities, passenger numbers and service type, such as:

  • Grade 1: not involved in driving passengers but refuellers, attendants, washers, etc.
  • Grade 2: drivers of vehicles with carrying capacity of less than 25
  • Grade 3: drivers who carry more than 25 school children, drivers who carry less than 25 passengers and coach drivers on day charters and who travel less than 650 kilometres
  • Grade 4: drivers who drive vehicles with a carrying capacity of 25 or more, coach drivers who carry 25 or more and coach drivers who carry more than 25 capacity and who travel a return distances of 650 kilometres or more
  • Grade 5: drivers with a sound operational knowledge including instructors
  • Grade 6: supervisors, trainers, customer service personnel.

Under the draft award, the present award rate would be replaced with a range of weekly rates based on the above grade classifications, namely:

  • Grade 1: $589.99
  • Grade 2: $603.90
  • Grade 3: $640
  • Grade 4: $663.10
  • Grade 5: $701.36
  • Grade 6: $733.24.

Additionally, the AIRC proposes that overtime – which would kick in after 10 hours per day or after 38 hours of ordinary time in any week – be paid at time-and-a-half for the first three hours and thereafter at double-time, on Saturday at time-and-a-half, and Sunday at double-time.

For part-time employees, who would have to be guaranteed a minimum of three hours per day/shift, the Commission recommends overtime should apply after four hours per day; while casuals would receive 25 percent loading on the base rate.

On top of this, the AIRC suggests all employees covered by the award receive allowances for logbooks/work diaries, uniforms, living away from home, fare and travelling time, and medical examinations.

Industry groups have responded fairly positively to the proposed award, despite arguing for the maintenance of separate industrial instruments covering private and public sector passenger transport operators.

They say this could fuel a "turf war" between key passenger transport unions, namely the Transport Workers Union (TWU), which has traditionally covered private operators, and the Rail, Tram and Bus Union (RTBU), which has historically focused on public sector operators – a fear dismissed by TWU Queensland State Secretary Hughie Williams.

And it might force private operators – and their representative associations – to negotiate with both unions on enterprise bargaining agreements, they say.

For operators in Queensland, SA and WA, where award rates are below the "standard" Grade 3 rate proposed by the AIRC, the key will be transitional arrangements to phase the increases in over the proposed five-year period.

Operators in SA, for example, face an increase of just under 5 percent over that period.

The Bus Industry Confederation (BIC) Industrial Working Group – comprising state and territory bus and coach associations – will meet this Thursday, May 28, to discuss the draft award and the issues industry needs to consider before making a formal response to the AIRC.

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