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Category Emails – Garry Browne

Email 9th May 2012

Hi Garry,

These are some of the reasons we spoke of with our concern about Category Sliding and some of the problems this has caused. We are not sure where this decision has come from but it has had a huge impact on contractors, particularly those that have previously worked for the ASTP and did not anticipate these changes. It would be good if you could attend to this at your first chance because people are still waiting on answers to their queries. Others who haven’t as yet been directly affected are anxious worrying if students will be removed from their runs and leave them with the same issues.

They are all of the understanding that a new run is generally offered to the operator at the category decided upon by the department, and accepted on that basis. (As discussed, it would be best if also stated on the run card). The problem is where runs were rolled over from last year. With no written or verbal indication of any change to that run, operators had no reason to expect the department had changed the run category and so began work in good faith that they were to be paid for the vehicle category they had tendered. In the case of people who tendered in more than one category, without the notification of any change on a rolled over run, again, that operator would have believed it to still be the same as previous years and were not aware that it was now up to the operator to determine the categories.

We understand the department is required to save money by organizing these runs as efficiently as possible, and as suggested yesterday, much of this could be gauged using the run/student history of the school and in particular new units opening at schools. Gearing runs this way could save runs going to and fro between operators and avoid multiple disruptions to students.

A few other considerations may be needed also after a call tonight from someone on behalf of about 20 country operators. They are unsure as to what will happen after originally being told (after their first pay) that all runs are now paid by “the number of children on the run” regardless of the category tendered. Last week (from verbal communication) they were informed they will now be paid for the category they tendered in, unless they tendered in multi categories. They are wondering if this also means reimbursement for the first term, and if so, will it be for everyone? There was also the question of what will happen to those that have had to sell their vehicles when the lower rates did not cover their larger car payments. These people are now left with a Run in a category they didn’t tender for, but they now have no vehicle in the category that they did. Most, after losing money on their vehicle sale, would now be reluctant to re purchase a larger vehicle. If you could clear this up for them would be good. There is also the problem of those people who have resigned. If reimbursement is to happen, are these people also still entitled to it?

Thanks Garry.

Hello Rhonda,

Email Response 9th May 2012

I need to confirm my advice at our meeting that the Department is not being required to save money and that there is no initiative to change ‘single category’ operators to a different basis of payment based on actual student numbers. Also, I confirm that runs are intended to be managed on the basis of the student history of the schools, the run history, and the likelyhood of new units etc. In order to provide a greater level of clarity around these matters I will need to be provided with the names of the indiviual operators who are believed to be affected by actual/advised changes to payment categories. I would like to commence following-up on these this morning so any names that can be provided immediately will be greatly appreciated.

Best wishes, Garry

 

From: Rhonda

Sent: Wed 9/05/2012 7:50 PM

To: Browne, Garry

Subject: Meeting Recap.

Hi Garry,

Apologies in advance for my lengthy email but I felt the need to recap our meeting today (probably more for my benefit). Most is not urgent so read when you have the time. Firstly, thank you for allowing us to talk with you and please also thank Kerri, who made us feel very comfortable.

We did touch on things that we had intended to bring up at a later date which meant some topics were perhaps a bit rushed and may have needed further explanation.

With the new system being implemented tomorrow I realize you will be extremely busy but when you get a chance, I believe the Category Changing Issue is the most important from what was discussed today because it is causing much stress, hardship and confusion. I have attached a bit more on this separately.

1) The Calculation Sheet

It will take some time, but in due course will be a good idea if and when the new system allows it.

2) The Claim Form

I can see where legally it may be warranted for am/pm signatures (especially with situations you mentioned) so if it is needed to remain this way, then while an inconvenience for larger operators, it is still doable and not really a major issue.

3) Maps/Routes with Run Cards

You said eventually this would not be a problem with the new system so when able, it would be a good idea, particularly for new runs. Though currently, the majority of operators would be fine without it and would only be necessary if Klms were disputed.

4) Engineers Certificate

While not my area (did not tender in this category), it seems to be a big issue for those that did due to the added expense of it occurring at 3 yearly intervals. Though, on reading the clause (10.2.1), I would have understood this to mean only under 3 years when first submitted. Whereas the RFT Clause (5.15a) does imply a continual condition. Either way, still a problem for existing operators holding older, yet valid certificates. Perhaps this could be necessary only when introducing a designated vehicle, since purchasing second hand with a certificate, does not guarantee the previous owner did not make alterations himself. Just a thought.

5) Age of Vehicles

While there are some operators that are concerned with this rule (10.1.2.2), personally I think it’s fair enough to expect operators to submit a mechanics report (5.14 RFT Contract) as to the vehicle’s road worthiness, as often older vehicles can be better maintained than newer ones. Unless this is now disallowed in the current contract, all that was needed is written approval from the department. Note. At this time, operators who obtained mechanics reports necessary to submit with their Tender Documents are yet to receive this written approval, so perhaps ‘illegal’ vehicles are being used due to a technicality. After talking about this with another operator, it was pointed out that all Heavy Vehicles (13+) have mandatory annual RTA checks that ascertain a vehicles condition.

6) Rates

I’m not sure how we got onto the subject of rates today but since we did, it was good to note to you the problems still experienced by some on the low end of the spectrum. I appreciate that Chris Raper and the PwC did a well researched and unbiased appraisal of the rates which are obviously much better than before. For NON owner/operators it is still a bit tight, as with the person I mentioned today making only $2 and $9 on 2 of her 3 runs based on the new rates. She will need to decide whether to continue, but like many operators, she may hold on hoping for more Klms. (The problem lies in the 4hr minimum wage now to be paid under legislation – even if a run is only for 45 mins each leg) She, like many, have been running these runs at a loss for the whole first term while waiting for the new rates and so, sorry to bring this up, but it would be nice if (some) office workers, with no experience in running costs, weren’t sarcastic when talking of the extra money we are about to come by. This has been long awaited and is well deserved.

We also touched on the driver approval process which I will also attach separately later along with some questions on other parts of the contract for when you have time. For now though, I was hoping perhaps you could define an inconsistency between 2 clauses. One of them being the newly added payment for Temporary Absences which we touched on today. I realize that this addition was needed primarily because the system may not cope with multiple mapping of runs each month, but it was a big “windfall” for contractors because it recognizes our necessary ongoing costs where in the past, this was (almost) covered with the minimum daily rate. The inconsistency lies with the wording in this clause (16.1) “Payments will be made for the agreed loaded Kilometres……” and “…….will not be adjusted for temporary student absences.” Clause 18.1 also reiterates “Payments will be calculated……………..for loaded Kilometres”. Since payments have so far differed  between operators (and could have been accidental either way), could you clarify if a payment is to be made if a “temporary absence” creates an “unloaded vehicle”. Ie. 2 students only on a run and both are away on the same day? In this situation, will a payment be due under the Temporary Absence clause or not due because of the Unloaded Vehicle clause?

Off Topic.

When I mentioned *****name today regarding a conversation I’d had with him, it seemed that you were aware of this. I don’t recall mentioning his name to you in our prior phone conversation but if I did, it was most certainly not aimed at getting him into any trouble. He was only passing on information that he understood to be accurate. While a tad condescending on another subject, he was actually very courteous.

It was interesting to find out that the ASTU was not with Shared Services until mid last year. This must make that position more difficult with this added department to look after. It seems a shame that the person you are relieving for was stood down when in fact most of the problems in January were due to events before his time. While I’m not sure where you will be off to afterward, I do hope this person is reinstated.

I would like to share the events of our meeting today with the members of the contractors association which can be done by private email but would you have any objection to me putting a summary on the website which would also then be viewed by site members and visitors?

Regards

Rhonda

Email 13th May 2012

Hi Garry,

I have tried to make this letter as short as possible but I seem to have a lot of trouble writing in Point Form, so if you need me to explain what I have written please ring. Since my understanding is from the view of an operator it would be a good idea to talk with Angelo as I believe he has been there for many years.

Previous years were quite different than under this contract, yet the relevant clauses (7.1 and past contracts 1.1) are similar in wording, with the only difference being the addition of detailed examples of variations which are generally understood and accepted by operators. No mention is made of vehicle categories changing with student numbers. Clause 18.1 and the Schedule of Pay Rates both say payment is based on “vehicle category”. The current method implies:

1)    The department expects multiple vehicles per run at their disposal, or

2)    Large vehicles are to be used, but paid at lower rates while on standby.

In previous years, once a run was accepted it would mostly continue in that category, often varying in student numbers with but with no change to remuneration to the operator. ie Maxi bus at times dropping in numbers would still be paid as a Maxi Bus.

It is not the “rationalization and re-organization” of runs that is the concern. We understand they are continually changing, and on some occasions an operator may lose their run totally. This risk has always been present. We also understand not to expect a higher payment if we choose to use a larger vehicle than required (providing the required category was made clear at the time of the offer). The problem is the new method this year of continually changing the Run category and its corresponding payment in line with the movement of students. This could produce:

1)    More than the usual risk/uncertainty for operators.

2)    Inconsistency with runs.

3)    Unnecessary disruptions to students, parents, teachers.

4)    Multiple run/vehicle/driver changes.

5)    A potential shortage of larger or wheelchair vehicles.

6)    Extra administration with continual re allocations.

7)    Trepidation with run acceptance (with the attached uncertainty of the future Run classification.)

8)    Differing payment methods used between operators on the same contract

Eg.1 Maxi Bus drops to seven students for one term only. Contractor A, a single category tenderer continues to be paid at Maxi Bus rates until more students are added. Whereas Contractor B, a dual category tenderer, will be paid at the lower People Mover Rate.

Personal Reasons (For my run and others like me)

1)    I received the same 3 runs rolled over and sent via email.

2)    With no communication to say otherwise, I believed them to be in the People Mover category as with previous years.

3)    I was not “offered” these runs with a description of their “new” category for me to choose to accept. (2 runs had 4 students the other had 5)

4)    Run 980 has been a People Mover run for the 11 years I have been its operator, and as far as I am aware, 16 years before that.

5)    I have had People Mover runs in the past with only 3 students for a number of years. It remained a People Mover and was never consolidated with another, therefore….

6)    I was unaware that I was to determine the category by the number of students.

7)    My first formal notification about this was at the end of the 1st term.

8)    I feel this new method, explained after the work was performed, is morally wrong.

While there is no guarantee that a run will be rolled over to the same operator, it is often the case, so if all runs each year are considered as “new”, with some having their ‘Run’ category changed, then even the rolled over runs should have been offered with its description for acceptance from the operator.

I believe people who chose to tender in a second category in the hope of attracting more runs are now at a distinct disadvantage from those who didn’t. If students are removed from runs, some operators will retain their vehicle category rate while others won’t. Thanks Garry.

Regards

Rhonda

Email 25th May 2012

Single category tenders with rolled over runs only. Garry

From: Rhonda
Sent: Friday, 25 May 2012 11:49 AM
To: Browne, Garry
Subject: RE: Update

Hi Garry,

Thank you for that. The maps would only be needed by some but would go hand in hand with the Calc sheet, so from June this would be good. I believe the Calc. Sheet is available on request at this time anyway. Can you just clarify the categories. Did you mean single category tenders with rolled over runs only, or single category tenders plus multi tenders with rolled over runs?

Thanks

Rhonda

23rd May 2012

Fr0m: Browne, Garry
Sent: Thursday, 24 May 2012 2:02 PM
To: Rhonda
Subject: RE: Update

Hello Rhonda

  • Vehicle category payment adjustments (single category tenders/rolled over runs) are underway, having started with those operators who have made contact with ASTU
  • Calculation sheet distribution will not be addressed until after new rates model payments have been made for the May operator claims
  • Runs remapping is almost complete and will be used for automated checking of claimed kms for the month of May, being issued only to those operators where discrepancies require discussion. Distribution to all operators will be considered when May payments have been completed.

Regards, Garry

From: Rhonda
Sent: Wednesday, 23 May 2012 5:09 PM
To: Browne, Garry
Subject: Update

Hi Garry,

I was wondering if you have had a chance yet to look at some of the issues we spoke of. Primarily The Categories, Calculation sheet and Map of route. Thanks.

Regards

Rhonda

21st July 2012

Hi Garry,

Below is a more detailed account of the problems with Category Sliding. While I did promise to make my letter short, I have trouble writing in Point Form. Therefore, I’m sorry if my lengthy letter brings you Monday morning woes.

Past/Present

Operators asking for an explanation to their lower pays were told things like “it’s all different this year……it’s in the contract” They are yet to receive their requests of the pertinent clause and many have scoured the contract. Since you said it does pertain to 7.1 it is still hard to define how this interpretation occurred. Previous years were quite different than under this contract, yet the relevant clauses (7.1 and past contracts 1.1) are similar in wording, with the only difference being the addition of detailed examples of the variations. These are generally understood and accepted by operators as:

7.1.1 Addresses may change, reducing or adding kilometres

7.1.2 Addresses other than home address may be used

7.1.3 TSO may be added to run

7.1.4 Students added or removed from run

7.1.5 Can give or take runs from a contractor

7.1.6 Runs may be joined for efficiency

7.1.7 Runs can be cancelled at any time

This clause also does say “not limited to”, but no mention is made of a “Vehicle” category changing to a “Run” category to coincide with student numbers. It also contradicts Clause 18.1 and the Schedule of Pay Rates which both say “vehicle category”. This is why contractors are upset, because for them to retain their run, the only 2 expectations to be made from this would be:

1)    The department expects you to have multiple sized vehicles at their disposal so as to ‘slide’ between categories if needed, or

2)    Contractors are expected to use their large vehicles with higher running costs while being paid at the lower rates in readiness for added students.

The way I understood it to have been in the past was that Runs were organised and categories determined by the Department, then offered to the most suitable operator. I assume they would have chosen from the ESP list either by location, vehicles, price or a combination. Mostly, once the run was accepted it would continue as such with students coming and going, often varying in numbers and moving between categories with no change to remuneration to the operator. I.e. a Maxi bus with students that would sometimes only fill a Mini bus or People Mover was still paid as a Maxi Bus. (It is common for student numbers to vary throughout a year) This new method could see as much as a monthly Operator change.

It is not the “rationalization and re-organization” of runs that is the concern. We all understand they are continually changing, and on some occasions an operator may lose their run totally. This risk has always been present. We also understand not to expect a higher payment if we choose to use a larger vehicle than required, providing the required category was made clear at the time of the offer. The problem is the method of continually changing the Run category and its corresponding payment. This could produce:

1)    More than the usual risk/uncertainty for operators.

2)    Inconsistency and unreliability with runs.

3)    Avoidable disruptions to students, parents, teachers.

4)    Multiple run/vehicle/driver changes.

5)    A potential shortage of larger or wheelchair vehicles.

6)    Added administration needed for re allocations.

7)    Trepidation with acceptances having attached the uncertainty of the runs future classification.

In the past, there was a strict rule where you could never be allocated a run in a category you had not included in your 2001 tender but this rule was overlooked earlier this year.  When operators were told they are now only being paid for the “number of children” and not on their vehicle category it was opposite to what was previously understood. (Currently being rectified for those who only tendered in a single category.)

Because of this past rule, some people added extra categories to their tender this time so as not to be overlooked when new runs were allocated. The extra category was not added as a replacement or alternative but rather, in the hope of attracting more runs. (Runs are extremely hard to get for small operators) It was thought runs would be offered to an Operator to accept or decline. The decision to submit a multi category tender has now had a negative impact on the original intent and personally, I now regret that decision. The sensible alternative, since at any time all larger vehicles can be paid at the lowest rate, would be to save costs and simply pay drivers to use their own sedans.

Explanation of Discontentment.

It was a warranted decision early this year by raising the minimum Kilometres to 30, primarily done to keep the programme running smoothly. Yet at such a crucial time, this opposing decision to introduce such a dramatic and unanticipated deviation to procedure could have quite easily had the reverse effect. Many saw this as a deliberate attempt to gain back the extra remuneration offered. If it wasn’t for the late formal notice (near end of term), and the knowledge that new rates were coming, many may not have continued. Add  this new interpretation of an existing clause, to the already emotionally charged opinions of the Tender “farce”, means more damage done to the underlying mistrust contractors already have of the Department. (Briefly mentioned at the meeting)

Personal Reasons

1)    I received the same 3 runs rolled over and sent via email.

2)    With no communication to say otherwise, I believed them to be in the People Mover category as with previous years.

3)    I was not “offered” these runs with a description of their “new” category for me to choose to accept. (2 runs had 4 students the other had 5)

4)    My first formal notification about this method of payment was at the end of the 1st term.

5)    Run 980 has been a People Mover run for the 11 years I have been its operator, and as far as I am aware, 16 years before that.

6)    I have had runs in the past with only 3 students for a number of years. It remained a People Mover and was never consolidated with another.

7)    I feel the new method explained after the work is performed, is morally wrong.

While there is no guarantee that a run will be rolled over to the same operator, it is often the case, so if all runs each year are considered as “new”, with some having their ‘Run’ category changed, then even the rolled over runs should have been offered with its description for acceptance from the operator.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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