All 'hire and reward workers to be covered by Wages Council
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• The scope of the Road Haulage Wages Council is to be widened to include all privately owned road transport undertakings engaged to any extent whatsoever in the carriage of goods for hire or reward, except those subsidiary companies which carry goods wholly for companies associated with them. An Order to this effect will be made shortly by Mrs Barbara Castle, who has accepted the suggestions of a commission of inquiry into the operation of the Wages Council, and whose report was published on Tuesday (HMSO price Is. 3d.).
The changes result from the 1968 Transport Act's blurring of the distinction between own-account and professional haulage activities. When Mrs Castle announced her intention to re-define the Wages Council's field of operation by reference to undertakings engaged in the carriage of goods wholly or mainly for hire or reward, the RHA and the TGWU both objected that the revised wording was too imprecise. Mrs Castle then set up the commission of inquiry, and the RHA and TGWU suggested that all operators carrying for hire or reward should be included within the scope of the Council, whatever their previous activity. The Freight Transport Association, however, put a contrary view, pointing out that there were a considerable number of satisfactory agreements on wages and conditions in the C-licence field and that, where this was not so, the 1938 Road Haulage Wages Act applied.
The commission considered the implications of "wholly or mainly" and decided that it was too generous and would permit transport undertakings operating mainly on their own account to ply for hire or reward in competition with other hauliers without having the obligation of complying with Road Haulage Wages Regulation Orders. The "fair wages" provisions of the 1938 Act would not, felt the commission, provide an adequate amount of protection. Use of "substantially" instead of "mainly" was considered but was found too difficult to define.
The commission came to the unanimous decision that any undertaking, branch or department of an undertaking engaged in the carriage of goods for hire or reward to any extent should be considered to be within the field of operation of the Road Haulage Wages Council. It also unanimously decided that only subsidiary companies who were engaged in carrying goods wholly for a parent company should be excluded from the field of operation.
Widening the scope, says the commission, means that representation on the Wages Council will have to be revised and it suggests that the Freight Transport Association (which raised the point in its evidence to the commission) is one obvious candidate.
The report includes a schedule which defines the goods transport operations excluded from the scope of "hire or reward" and also defines which workers are regarded as being employed in road haulage.
The FTA commented on Wednesday that the commission's principal decision was unrealistic and meant that minority interests were overridden by a majority one. The decision also conflicted with the procedure adopted in respect of Training Boards and SET.
The Association pointed out that many own-account operators had negotiated productivity agreements with the unions and that some of these agreements would have to be modified.
The RHA said on Wednesday that it felt the commission's solution was the only reasonable and workable one in the circumstances; it was pleased to see that its recommendations had been accepted.
• Just over six per cent of lorries and seven per cent of trailers stopped in a nationwide roadside check on 8000 lorries and trailers in January did not conform to regulations, the Ministry of Transport said this week.
The operators had been reported to Licensing Authorities with a view to prosecution, the MoT added.