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Issues Presented to DEC City Meeting

The below Issues were submitted to the Department of Education and Communities at a meeting held in July 2012. The contentious topic of Category Lowering was left to discuss at future meetings due to time. As of the time these were added to the website in March 2013, there have only been 2 of the below corrected. (Licence Display and 3 Year Engineer certificate). Since these were submitted other issues are accumulating and as yet, the Category Problem has not been fully debated and addressed. Below is the Cover Letter followed by each of the Issues which was handed to the people attending.

25th July 2012

Dear Mr Riordan,

Issues with the Assisted School Travel Program

Thankyou for arranging a meeting with us today in relation to the Assisted School Travel Program. As mentioned in my letter requesting your assistance there has been quite a bit of unrest amongst operators under the program – particularly when many feel as though their issues are not being taken seriously and the amount of time that has passed with no resolution in sight.

Our intent for today’s meeting is to discuss issues of importance to operators which we believe are not overly complex and that can be resolved quickly. We believe that other major issues such as category sliding and run allocation need to be discussed separately and will take more time and energy to resolve due to their complexity. We would ask that an additional meeting be scheduled at some stage so we can raise the concerns operators have with those two issues.

In order to assist the department better understand each issue we intend to raise today, we have collated relevant information into a folder for each. These include:

  1. RCTI/Calculation Sheets
  2. Department Maps
  3. Mapping Methods
  4. Travel Support Officers
  5. Engineering Certificates
  6. General Problems with the System
  7. Expiration of TSO/Driver Approvals
  8. Driver Approvals
  9. Licence Display
  10. Adjustment Note
  11. Contract Clauses
  12. Job Security

We look forward to working with the department to address these issues.

Regards,

Rhonda Hinds.

 

RECIPIENT CREATED TAX INVOICE (RCTI)

There is little information on the RCTI, showing only the bare necessities. This is of little use to the Operator when checking payments. The RCTI either needs to show the relevant information pertaining to the claim or have a detailed attachment.    

“A RCTI must contain all the requirements of a tax invoice………”

“A RCTI operates as a substitute for tax invoice, not as an alternative.”

This attachment could be the STMS – Operator Payment Details. This calculation sheet shows this necessary information.

CALCULATION SHEET (STMS – Operator Payment Details)

Totals on the RCTI rarely match what was claimed. The Department gives no notification or explanation for the underpayment so there is no way to understand how their total figure has been deduced. If a calculation sheet was attached to every RCTI operators would at least be able to check for inaccuracies.

  •  Operators should have the right to check that payment for supply is accurate.
  • Operators should not fear reprisals if they choose to question their payments or be spoken to derogatively when requesting clarification on payments.
  • Details on the Calculation sheet should contain the information provided by the Operator and not just that which the Department deems to be accurate.
  • Any discrepancy between that which has been claimed by the Operator and that which has been determined by the Department should be noted and at minimum, an explanation should be sent with the RCTI as to why the amount claimed has been denied.
  • The accompanying explanation should also offer operators the opportunity to discuss further this determination if they are not satisfied that it is accurate.Note:

Many operators would prefer to accept whatever they are paid (even if wrong) than to call the ASTU because they are fearful that if they do, their run may be terminated. This attitude is rife, and has been for years, so it would be important (and right) to encourage operators to do so. The department needs to take a good faith approach in dealing with issues with operators – instead of instantly assuming the operator is wrong or attempting to maximise their payments, the department should look at the problem and work with the operator to achieve an outcome.

ADJUSTMENT NOTE

(Unless meant only for the actual value agreed upon ie. the per kilometre rate.)

There has never been an adjustment note with any supply change, whether caused by an Address Variation, Removal of Student, Route or System Adjustment. We believe where possible, an adjustment note (plus a map) given at the time of any supply change is a sensible approach. This would:

  • Advise Operators in advance and prepare them in monetary terms before their supply claim is presented.
  • Give Operators time to check the accuracy of both Route changes, Kilometre changes and Category changes prior to submitting their Supply Claim Form.

Tender agreement

10) The Department will supply an adjustment note should the value of the supply change at any stage. A copy of that adjustment note will be supplied to you within 28 days of that adjustment being determined.

ATO Site

“the purchaser must issue an adjustment note (or a copy) to the seller within 28 days of any adjustment occurring”

We understand this would substantially add to the work load in both Variations and Mapping Departments but feel ultimately it would lessen the time taken each month to rectify pay claims. This could be done on the Run Card.

CLAIM FORMS

The contractor is expected to submit a detailed payment claim form in lieu of a valid Tax invoice. They must be complete, unaltered and be stamped and signed by the school principal or delegate,” They are to contain the relevant information pertaining to the claim and will not be paid unless they are in original format. The details required can have up to 46 separate klms written for AM and PM. Yet when processed, the amount claimed is completely disregarded and is not even written on the OPD form. The amount paid is purely at the discretion of the Department though the contract states:

“……. and unless otherwise agreed by the Parties, the Department shall pay the

Contractor for the number of kilometres as stated on the Form at the applicable Loaded

Kilometre Rate ……”

CONTRACT CLAUSES

Under the program, there is little to no security for Operators which face considerable expenses in providing (or being prepared to provide) services to the Department. This security is further eroded by the department making modifications to the contract, with clauses continually being re interpreted, changed, omitted or new ones added (verbally).

The contract is ambiguous and many clauses are left open to interpretation which can vary from officer to officer within the department and from run to run.

The department needs to either have the contract written in such a way that it is clear and unambiguous. It needs to be written with as much detail as is required to ensure that there can be no alternate interpretations. “Worked examples” could also be used to make them easier to understand and fully transparent.

If the contracts are fully understood by both operators and staff there would be a more consistent and reliable method in place which would contribute to a better and fairer work ethic between both parties. This could be better done by:

v A governing body overseeing and determining decisions affecting operators.

v Alterations or additions done with consultation from operators.

A recent contract change was the determination to exclude a part day based on the industrial action clause (one which needs refinement and explanation). This half day payment was done without consultation or explanation and without correspondence relating the change to operators. Making the payment even more complex to decipher was in the method used to determine this half day rate. (Using notional kilometres to reduce actual kilometres)

Concerns with introducing or changing contract clauses:

  • Operators are unaware of the changes reflected in their payments
  • Operators can be accused of unknowingly breaching their contract
  • They further reduce run security
  • Concerns as to where else these changes may unknowingly be applied
  • Concerns that other changes may also randomly occur

The contract itself provides that clauses dealing with matters other than run allocation/reallocation and run variations may only be modified in writing and signed by both the department and the contractor.

When the Department makes a decision that contravenes the understood contract conditions:

  • It first should obtain advice as to the legitimacy of the change to the clause
  • It should explain why it needs to deviate from the understood contract conditions
  • Have prior consultation with operators
  • At minimum, communication should have been sent to all operators.

Operators would fully understand any legislation changes that are not of the Departments doing, but communication on these changes should be paramount.

DRIVER APPROVALS

There are serious problems with Part 7 Division 3 of the Commission for Children and Young People Act 1998 (NSW) with respect to drivers under the Assisted School Travel Program. If a driver wishes to transfer from one operator to another (even on a temporary basis) the legislation requires the new operator to submit them for a Working with Children Check, which takes up to five weeks.

Such a procedure is unnecessary given that a driver has already been cleared to work as an assisted school travel driver for the department, however the legislation ignores this instead considering only each employer a driver has worked for. This situation is not duplicated for Travel Support Officers as they are contracted directly to the department. TSOs are free to move between operators as they wish.

Many operators have found this to be a serious problem since 2010 when new legislation meant each employer needed to have a Working with Children Check done on anyone wanting to work for them – even if that person was to be employed as a relief driver on a temporary basis. The department offered no communication about this change to the normally understood and accepted (and many times verified) rule, operators were left to “find out the hard way”, receiving breach of contract threats if found using an approved driver not approved under their name.

This is something that could have been simply overcome had the department been forthcoming. Rather than assisting operators ignorant of this rule, the department instead, were giving ultimatums to operators. They were told under NO CIRCUMSTANCES were they to use another contractors relief driver and must surrender their run. How sad for those who have already lost their run (and livelihood) over what was a lack of understanding of the new regime.

Due to the nature of runs being created at short notice, runs have been lost due to the inability of speedy processing for driver approvals, mostly taking on average 5 weeks yet this was also NOT necessary.

Filling a position urgently: In most cases the Working With Children Check can be completed within ten business days. If you need to employ someone before a Check is completed, make it clear to him or her that employment is conditional upon the outcome of the Check. You may also consider modifying the work requirements of the new employee until the Check is completed, for example by limiting access to children or providing additional supervision. You must submit an Employer Request for Background Check as soon as possible after the employee is recruited.

The association suggests that the department require operators needing to use someone urgently to seek approval from the department and if approval is granted have the proposed driver complete a Prohibited Employment Declaration and to sign and have their proposed driver sign a Declaration of Understanding similar to that below and to supply a copy of both to the department.

At present, the department only allows a Driver or TSO to remain “current” for 3 months after being de-listed from a run, despite the operation of section 37A of the Commission for Children and Young People Act 1998 (NSW). The act states that where you are employing a person for less than six months and the person has undergone a working with children check with the same employer in the preceding 12 months a new working with children check is not required as long as they are being employed in the same kind of position.

(Suggestion of form to allow hasty approval for an approved driver for another employer)

Declaration of Understanding – Urgent Temporary Driver Authority

Operator:                                                            [Insert Operator Name] (‘The Operator’)

Run Number:                                                     [Insert AST Run Number]

Driver:                                                                  [Driver’s Name] (‘The Driver’)

The operator requires for the driver commence employment as an Assisted School Travel Program driver for the Department of Education and Communities prior to the completion of the Working with Children Check.

The operator understands that the protection of children is of paramount importance to the department and that all staff are to be background checked in accordance with the Working with Children Check procedures. The operator has requested that the driver commence without authority on a temporary basis as set out below. This temporary approval will expire on [Insert Date] or once the results of the Working with Children Check are known, whichever date occurs first.

If the Working with Children Check is not acceptable to the department, in its sole and absolute discretion, the temporary driver authority is immediately removed and the operator will cease using the driver to perform the service.

Where the Working with Children Check is acceptable then the department will authorise the driver to work as an Assisted School Travel Program driver.

The operator and driver acknowledge and confirm that they understand and agree to the following:-

  • It is a requirement for drivers to undertake the Working with Children Check prior to commencing work, however there are circumstances where a temporary authority is appropriate;
  • This temporary authority allows the operator to use the driver until the Working with Children Check is completed;
  • It is a requirement for the driver to complete a Prohibited Employment Declaration prior to commencement under this temporary authority;
  • This temporary approval expires on [Insert Date].

[Insert Operator’s Representative Name]                            [Insert Name]

Operator’s Representative                                                          Driver

Signed ……………………………………                                         Signed ……………………………………

Dated  [Insert date]

3 YEAR ENGINEER CERTIFICATE

Drivers with Wheel Chair access have unnecessary added expenses due to the Contract requirement of an Engineers Certificate to be provided every 3 years. The Engineering Certificate Scheme (ECS), now replaced by the Vehicle Safety Compliance Certificate Scheme (VSCCS) retains the same criteria as the older scheme which only requires an inspection at the time of modification to a vehicle. Unless the vehicle has been modified since the original inspection, the certificate remains current and is recognised as such with the RTA (now RMS). We ask that this clause be revised to exclude the continuing 3 yearly request for this certificate and to remain in force for newly presented vehicles only.

Below from Rams (RTA) Website July 2012

“My vehicle already has an engineering certificate. What do I need to do?

 If you have already presented your engineering certificate to a motor registry then you don’t need to do anything else. Your certificate will continue to be recognised by RMS.”

Note: All vehicles with 10 passenger seats (including driver) must also have an annual Heavy Vehicle Inspection.

Tender Contract

5.15 Vehicles with wheelchair carrying capacity must also meet the following

        requirements:

        (a) vehicles must have a current (less than 3 years old) Engineering Certificate

        from an RTA recognised engineering signatory, covering all modifications,

        including restraint systems, lifts and ramps;

LICENCE DISPLAY

The contract calls for all drivers to display their drivers licence in the vehicle.

10.8.2 The Driver’s Licence shall be placed in the device and be on display at all times whilst

providing the Service.

Operators feel this not only breaches their personal privacy, but is in fact a dangerous practice for various reasons. A far better method would be a Department issued “Approved Driver Identification Card”. (Below is a detailed submission by an operator giving reasons for opposing and an example of an alternative method.) We request that this clause in the contract is reviewed and removed.

The Association is aware that most contractors are not adhering to this contract condition for the following reasons: –

  • It is felt that the condition was a poorly thought out attempt by DEC to have each ASTP driver identifiable without incurring any cost to the DEC.  It is noted that no such requirement is put forward for TSO’s as any cost involved would have to have been met by the DEC as TSO’s are directly engaged by the DEC not contractors. 
  • Drivers transporting ‘behavioural’ students WILL NOT display their licence as this would disclose the home address of the driver to these types of students many of whom have criminal records or psychiatric conditions and live in the same or nearby suburbs/towns as the driver.  This would pose an avoidable risk to the welfare of the driver and breach Workplace Safety Laws.
  • Although the majority of students would not pose any risk to the driver by knowing the drivers home address there is also no benefit derived from ANY student being able to read the home address of the driver. 
  • Parents/teachers do not generally enter school run vehicles so displaying licences do not assist them in knowing the identity of the driver.
  • We can think of NO OTHER occupation where a person’s driver’s licence is required to be produced OR displayed in the performance of their duties.  We can think of NO OCCUPATION where ANYONE has to produce or display ANY identification document/s which discloses the workers home address.

In conclusion we feel that it is completely inappropriate to expect drivers to display their drivers licence.  A much better and more robust system of driver identification could be achieved by the DEC issuing an identification card say on a lanyard which is to be worn by the driver AND TSO, at all  times whilst performing school runs. 

The benefits:

  • The number one aim of identification is that ALL persons, PARENTS, TEACHERS AND STUDENTS coming into contact with Drivers/TSO’s would be readily able to establish their bona-fides.  An identification card worn by the Driver/TSO would achieve that aim.

It should be noted that authorities for Public Passenger Vehicles (such as taxis and bus drivers) do not contain identifying information – they show a photograph and an approval number.

TSO/DRIVER EXPIRIES.

When names of Drivers and TSO’s attached to Runs do ‘drop off’ it can cause them to seem unemployed for the required 3 month period.

Below is a submission from an Operator on this subject.

3 MONTH EXPIRY OF DRIVER AND TSO CLEARANCES.

The current Student Transport Management Program database renders as EXPIRED the clearance of Drivers and TSO’s if they are not shown as attached to a school run for three months.  In previous years this occurred at 12 months then it was reduced to 6 months now 3 months.  Unfortunately the ASTU’s database and the maintenance of records in that database leave a lot to be desired.  This arbitrary ‘kick-out’ system frequently shows the approval of drivers and TSO’s who have never stopped working as expired.  When these situations are identified the driver or TSO must stop working immediately until a fresh application completed and the approval process is completed. 

A better, more robust less accident prone system of ensuring the bona-fides of a Driver or TSO could be achieved by issuing an identification card which has a twelve month life in conjunction with the STMP keeping clearances current for the same 12 month period.  This would of course mean that the identification card would need to be renewed each 12 months but would only be renewed for those drivers/TSO’s who are going to continue to be engaged

LEGISLATION ON APPROVALS

Although it will soon become redundant with the “New  Working With Children Check” later this year, could the current legislation be checked for accuracy for this 3 month rule due to the below information from the kids.nsw.gov.au website?

Once only: The Check is current while a person remains in the same position in child-related employment with you. People returning from leave into the same child-related employment do not need to be re-checked. Existing employees are only checked if they are recruited to a new position with a different range of child-related contact, within the organisation. For example, if a child care worker employed by a council is transferred to another of that council\’s child care positions, even in a different child care centre, the council does not need to do a new background check. However, if a council child care worker is appointed as a council youth worker, the council should request a new background check, as the role has a different range of child-related contact.

TSO ACQUISITIONS – Not Responsibility of Contractor

Information in the Tender – Statement of Requirements implies that the Dept. is in fact to organize TSO’s because their “engagement……..is not in the scope of this RFT.”

5.12 There will be a requirement for successful respondents to transport those Travel

Support Officers who are required to accompany nominated students during transit.

The engagement of Travel Support Officers is not within the scope of this RFT.

The onus on this has now shifted to it being the Operators responsibility, and in fact, if a TSO is not found, an Operator can lose not only day rates, but the entire Run. This Year, the benefit of a 15% payment to help with extra costs (since the Dept removes the potential money making seat and replaces it unpaid, with their employee) is being eroded with the expectation that Operators source the TSO’s.

11.5 Travel Support Officers

11.5.1 “Travel Support Officers are contracted separately by the Department………….”

11.5.2 “It is the Contractor’s responsibility in consultation with the school principal to identify a suitably

qualified person to provide the Travel Support Officer service…………..”

11.5.3 “The Travel Support Officer cannot commence work until the Department has given written

approval following completion of the Working With Children Check.”

11.5.4 “…….. In circumstances where…….(a TSO is not found and)…..the Run is delayed from commencing by more than one day the Department reserves the right to re-allocate the Run.”

Advertising and administration costs are an unanticipated extra expense to the Operator, but there are other problems with this that are not in the control of the operator.

  • The Department pay rates for TSO’s are not an enticement. Being $6 an hour below the mandated legislation minimum (not sure why a government Dept can escape this rule), makes it difficult for Operators to find and also retain these people. Some operators, at their own expense need to supplement the TSO’s income.
  • The approval of a TSO which is obligated to be done via an agent (The Dec) is then out of the control of the Operator for the expedition of this approval. This can take many weeks, and apart from the inconvenience for the waiting student and TSO, the Operator is left in some cases ‘holding’ the vehicle with no income, or can potentially lose the run.
  • Some operators have questioned the legality of advertising for what will essentially be employees/contractors for another entity. They are in effect, acting on behalf of the Department, which could then make them a notional employment agency.

The alternative should be that the Dept. acquires a ‘pool’ of approved TSO’s in all areas whereby they can nominate by location, the most suitable to allocate to the run. This ‘pool’ could still be voluntarily supplemented with additions by an Operator.

Note: The Dept. has been known to “poach” a TSO acquired by one Operator to give to another. This then causes the need for the first Operator to re acquire and wait approval on a new TSO which causes them lost income because the run must cease while waiting.

SYSTEM PROBLEMS

LOST RECORDS

The Department Data Base has an anomaly (though it may be corrected now) whereby often, records of currently approved Drivers vanish. This was often caused by its inability to hold more than 3 names. Once another relief driver was added to the run, an existing approved driver would then drop off. If not detected, technically they would be working unapproved and we would then get a “breach of contract” threat. A complete new package is then required to have this deleted driver attached again. This not only adds to the workload of both the Contractor and the ASTU, it is an expensive and time consuming task especially given the costs involved with both RTA Driving records and Medicals needed this year. Not to mention the fact that Operators can and DO lose runs over what is actually a Departmental error.

Note: Once the system has a Driver showing as a Relief driver on another run, the Driver reverts to a Relief Driver, leaving a run without a nominated Driver.

RETAINING INFORMATION.

The system also fails at times in retaining updated information (or not being added) for things like vehicle details, personal details etc, causing Operators to re send this information over and over and over. It is frustrating and again, time consuming.

We would like to request that when problems arise due to system errors that at least an apology accompany the request for re submissions and in the case of Driver/TSO re approvals, the Department does the necessary checks by using the already submitted and printed version of the package including the already attached and certified identification, and not insist on a complete new package.

MAPS

To prevent an Operator needlessly driving various routes in order to find the “shortest practicable route”, which is commonly not the Department’s desired route, we request that the Departments already mapped routes be supplied to operators:

  • At the beginning of a newly acquired run.
  • With a new variation to an existing run.
  • At the request of an Operator concerned with discrepancies.

We also request that route discrepancies, disagreements or unanticipated problems with the Department route be looked into swiftly to:

  • Achieve permission for the safest route quickly.
  • Prevent disruptions to the students.
  • Avoid potential problems when the supply claim is presented.
  • Discourage animosity with lengthy delays.

And we ask that Operators concern with routes should be treated as legitimate whilst being investigated for validity.

Deviations

Valid reasons for deviations from the shortest practicable route should be considered, and not simply unaccepted by the department.  The dollar amount in some situations should be secondary to the safety, security, stability and well being of the students in transit. Reasons for deviation from routes could arise from:

  • Congestion (extra time causes anxiety)
  • Dangerous Routes (narrow winding roads, slippery surfaces, crossings prone to flash floods, dangerous turns)
  • Student Behavioural Issues (student stress, car sickness, personality clashes)
  • Inconsistent Pickup Times (route changes due to student absences create inconsistent pick up times. (example attached)

Discrepancies

When disagreeing about Klms for a run, arguing serves no purpose when the reason for the difference is not made clear and “the Departments decision is final”. The example map (attached) shows how routes may not be accurate – in this case the school is not where it is showing on the Department map – and without a copy of the map the problem would not have been noticed and an operator would have continued to be paid quite a considerable amount less.

The department needs to appreciate that no mapping system ran from an office possibly hundreds of kilometres away can be 100% accurate all the time. Where there are major discrepancies the department should either inspect the route themselves with a GPS logging device or encourage the operator to supply GPS logs. These are far more accurate than any mapping system

STRINGENT MAPPING

The way Google maps the routes are not always viable in practice for various reasons, so consideration should be shown in this matter by:

  •  Allowing a percentage added to the mapped Kms to cover regular occurrences. Allowances for safe turning, road closures, traffic congestion etc would be a fair and just proposal to replace the current stringent method which now sees drivers not only being substantially underpaid for work performed, but are also disallowed kms that the Dept. have accurately mapped. (under half a kilometre is ignored)

“We will be paying according to the mapped run. It is paid from Point A to Point D.”

“We can’t round the kms to the nearest decimal point as it is not the true kilometres claimed for the run.”

Payments are made “……….according to our mapping guidelines.”

Note – “true kilometres claimed for the run” are those that are actually driven.

Reasons for recurring variations.

It would be rare for any run with multiple students to have each of the students living on the same side of the road as the map suggests. Surely it must be appreciated that if the vehicle needs to be on the opposite side of the street, then it needs to make that turn safely. A few reasons that would prevent a vehicle from simply performing a U Turn would be:

  • Double yellow lines
  • Median strip
  • Road too narrow
  • Road too busy
  • Road on bend
  • Parked cars

1)    Safer turning options would add Klms depending on the closest safe turning area. At times there may be a road or roundabout not far past the students house, or it could be necessary to travel down an alternate road to turn into the students street on the correct side. Some streets have very lengthy unavoidable medium strips.

2)    Many schools require the driver to enter the school grounds, and while some entrances and driveways are minimal, some schools have a considerable distance to the student drop off point. Google does not always allow for the “pin” to be dropped within the private property of the school. Extra kilometres for this can vary from 1 to 4 Klms each day.

The above variations should be measured by the Driver and accepted by the Department as legitimate travel.

Reasons for common variations.

1)    If you are the driver of behavioural or autistic students, traffic congestion causing delays can be such an aggravation to them (which can quickly escalate into a dangerous situation) that finding the best route to avoid these delays is the better alternative. This can sometimes mean a very lengthy addition to the trip.

2)    On any given day a driver could have the need to detour due to either road works or a car accident (road closed). These detours can sometimes be lengthy, and while a variation to the route is sometimes allowed once explained, it is not the fore running thought at the time to “trip” the odometer.

These ‘after the event’ variations should also be considered as legitimate.

Most Operators would acknowledge the unexpected deviations as “part of the job” and not request a variation for that day but if an unforseen and lengthy variation is submitted it should be seen as a valid request and honoured.

Note:

When the new system was implemented, each run was mapped. Therefore a simple (and courteous) method would have been to send these maps to the Operator prior to them, either unnecessarily performing an incorrect route, or given them the opportunity to show why their particular route is unviable. At the very least, this would have prevented operators from expecting (and relying) on a pay last month that was severely below what was anticipated.

Furthest Child

For the approximate two thirds of operators having provided the service in the past, the “Furthest Child” rule, now replaced by the “shortest practicable route”, may not have been realized. This can make a difference to a route and some Operators, who will now need to adjust their route, do not have Google mapping knowledge. They would require the name of the student from which the run would now start.

Note: While not a legal requirement, a simple email noting this change from the normally accepted way would have saved unnecessary extra travel for drivers.

We would like some clarification on this method. At what point does picking up closer students stop? i.e. some routes will be the shortest by collecting a student 10 mins from school but in doing so, they would need to travel an hour more than necessary. Is this what we are now to do in those circumstances?

JOB SECURITY

Operators with the ASTP have no job security at all. Outlays for all expenses need to be undertaken prior to commencement of any run, yet no guarantees are given. If the required asset has not been obtained you cannot get a run. If the asset is obtained you may still not get a run. “This agreement does not oblige the Department to allocate any Run or Runs for the Services to the Contractor;”

Being on the ESP list is a “standing offer contract” only. Once operators are providing the service and have a contract, the run can be cancelled at anytime by the department for any reason with the operator returning back to the ESP list. The 20 business day “termination for convenience” clause for “Either Party” is only of convenience to the Department since – “This Agreement does not guarantee any period of engagement of the Contractor-to the provision of the Service.” The Department need only cancel the run to achieve the same.

This lack of security for contractors was noted by Danny Graham Director, Privately Financed Projects NSW Treasury, a member of the Tender Steering Committee  “Danny Graham noted the tenuous nature of the arrangements from the perspective of special transport operators where they are required to have a vehicle and driver available without any form of guarantee that they will be given or retain a transport service.” Yet this is just a small part of the tenuous nature of a contract that is continually changing to benefit the Department leaving the operator with no rights, no security, no safety and no prospects – just expensive outlays.

With continual interpretive changes, newly introduced clauses, payment reductions and inaccurate mapping and equations, security is nonexistent. The promised rates are being eroded at every opportunity.

Mr Piccoli confidently stated to the media “The new rates offer certainty and stability to transport operators and to parents, carers, and students with special needs,” The new rates, whilst certainly warranted and well deserved, is not the only factor in attaining assurances for this program. Certainty and stability” has NEVER been had by any Operator with the ASTU. It is this lack of security (combined with rates that were reduced to that paid a decade ago) that largely contributed to the “incident” in January. (Other reasons were not mentioned in the Boston Report)

For the program to have “stability” the operators need “certainty”.  For this there would need to be major changes with the current methods. Beginning with respect.   Operators are tired of continually being spoken down to or treated like an imbecile. They are tired of having to fight for every dollar they have worked for and deserve. They are tired of a meaningless contract with ever changing clauses and feeling the “brunt” of departmental errors. They are tired of the department “being a law unto themselves” and of being intimidated or threatened with a cancelled run. They are tired of not having a voice.

 

 

 

 

 

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