Friday, July 4, 2008

IRC Travesty

IRC Travesty

This was my first IRC Industrial Relations Commission.

I was rung to move my butt and get in there by 9.30am yesterday (thanks Mike Hatrick).

The IRC is at cnr Bridge and Phillip Sts. Where Sir Laurence Street had the grand Henry Parkes corner office 10 years ago awaiting a call to be governor of NSW, but missing out. A beautiful stone heritage building (the site of many dreadful and devious deeds).

The hearing was to decide how much increase the drivers and the operators of NSW would get.

(Metro Taxi meters have already been adjusted for a 3.8% IPART increase approved by the Minister ; 3.3% country.)

Justice Marks, 50'ish, mo, affable, smiling, (been there, done that) presided.

The "applicants" were the TIA Taxi Industry Association (Taxi Council) for operators and the TWU for drivers.
What a charade.

The TIA legal, tall, urbane, smooth, smiling experienced assassin, (also been there, done that) was there with small Peter Ramshaw of TIA / TC Ltd.

The TWU legal was a tanned, blond surfie type with cowboy boots who volunteered he did not know about the taxi industry. Good start.

It seems the IPART Report recommendations had been difficult to interpret (indeed IPART reluctantly gave guidance for IRC purposes only after strong protests from NSWTDA and TC Ltd).

Therefore TWU did not oppose, nor support the application ! WOW ! That's representation for drivers for you !

Then some light relief. Jools stood up and asked would he be permitted to "intervene"?

Who are you, who do you represent and do you have any 'status' in the IRC? asked Justice Marks sternly. And do the applicants agree? We object, said Mr smooth TIA. We ask for an adjournment said Mr surfie astutely, to find out what the "intervenor" wants.

After a brief chat, the surfie rang to get 'superior instructions' and then suggested some talks and a return to the IRC at a future date for Mr Jools to seek a new Contract Determination – which is 25 years out of date ! (And which still says $16.95 /hour 'wage rate' for taxidrivers which IPART insisted this year on using as a 'proxy' despite all logic, reason and submissions from the NSWTDA that busdrivers are paid $21 /hour plus for easier work for a 40 hour week !).

Fine, a judicial review has been mentioned for the last 4 years, said Marks who seemed to like that idea.

Such was the complete extent of any drivers' voice at the IRC hearing !

Back to work.
After the IPART Report had been handed up, and told by Mr smooth the 3.8% fare increase was not relevant, Marks said IPART had in the past kindly provided details. Instead he was directed to an obscure 2 line Table in IPART page 52 which was discussed at some length. It assessed increases in costs to drivers 4.8% and to operators 4.7%. (And the total fare increase of 3.8%) Go figure ! No-one else could. Presumably the 4.8 and 4.7% were discounted by IPART with their undefined "productivity incentives", meaning in fact arbitrary punitive reductions of the actual cost increases! And 4.8 & 4.7% presumably indicating approx 50/50 split to drivers and operators? (Given a 140 pages Final Report, lift your game in future, IPART. )

Mr smooth then handed a 'secret' schedule to Marks, arguing the IRC should proceed as it has done for the past 7 years. Just increase the Max Payin and what's left over – if anything – is for drivers. Well, what about the extraordinary fuel price increases, asked Marks several times, which the drivers suffer? Good one, Justice, right on ! But the TIA stuck to its guns – without any fuel answer – and of course the TWU had not opposed or agreed.

So finally, after an hour long charade, the IRC decided as per the 'secret' TIA schedule which Marks didn't understand, nor read out, but "on the TIA's assurance"! Accordingly, and also because of his fuel concerns, Marks pronounced his decision as per the TIA "reflecting the IPART report" to be operative from 12.01 am Sat 5July08 as an Interim Decision which could be challenged, amended or corrected if needed in 6 months.
(Maybe in concert with the 6 monthly IPART fuel review, I thought quietly.)

What a fiasco !
And so what is the result, drivers and operators ask?
Well, don't ask me, f…..d if I know !
And nobody else knows either, except the TIA, because no-one else at the hearing was given a copy of the 'secret' schedule !

What's that old saying about cleaning out the Aegean stables …

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