SUBSCRIBER EXCLUSIVE: Industry lobbies against single award

By: Graham Gardiner

Bus and coach industry groups will argue against the proposal for a single award covering both private and public sector

Bus and coach industry groups will argue against the proposal for a single award covering both private and public sector passenger transport operators in its response to the Australian Industrial Relations Commission’s (AIRC) proposed new modern award for the sector.

On May 22 the Commission released a draft Passenger Vehicle Transportation Award, as required under stage three of the award modernisation process.

Under the draft instrument, 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.

Industry associations – led by the Bus Industry Confederation (BIC) – had pushed for the maintenance of separate awards.

Following a meeting of the BIC Industrial Working Group – comprising state and territory bus and coach associations – on May 28, the group will argue against a single award in its official submission to the Commission.

Ian MacDonald, Executive Assistant at BusNSW, says separate awards are necessary to reflect significant differences between public and private sector operators, especially road versus rail.

He notes that the draft award proposes operators pay a 15 percent loading for hours worked before 6am and after 7pm.

"Light rail in particular doesn’t tend to run late and so we will be suggesting that the penalty applies after 10pm," he says.

"It is important in terms of flexibility and the way operators roster [drivers] on road versus rail."

Additionally, the industry submission will argue the need for a transitional period to proposed new award rates.

The draft award includes 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.

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.

"There is a need for transitional arrangements, especially to allow private operators to negotiate [compensation for higher rates] with governments," McDonald says.

Importantly, the industry will also push for clarification of the proposal for casual and part-time employees to receive a minimum of three hours per shift.

McDonald says industry is concerned that this requirement will force operators to offer split-shift drivers a minimum of six hours a shift/day.

"If they do two shifts a day that could mean a minimum of six hours per day, which would be contrary to the [AIRC’s] intention," he says.

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