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The Wrong View

Many problems between operators and the ASTU can be attributed to the view that appears to be strongly held throughout this Department. I am surprised just how much it seems to affect every decision. I now realize this deep seated view was the basis for the original wrongly devised rates, and continues to be the underlying premise permeating every decision. In my opinion, while ever this view is believed, decisions undermining operator’s rights will always continue.  In the future, as with the past, every effort will be made by the Department to re interpret any clause (despite how clear they are) that may enable them to yet again, find another way to retract rightful funds, simply because it is based on their ill informed belief. Changing this opinion will be impossible while ever the DEC believes the same. Below are my own thoughts and questions on this, written after our last meeting where to me it was apparent that you both also share the Departments view. I cannot validate your view, for me it does not logically “sit right”.

I am a bit concerned with the common perception that all “mum and dad” operators are thought of as having private components with their vehicles and question the accuracy of that amount being 65%. I also question if having a possible private advantage should actually be relevant. Are Principle Contractors all of this understanding when engaging contractors – especially when tendering?

In the RFT it was obvious that the Taxi companies could submit the lowest tenders because they took into account their co-existing business use of their capital. It would also follow that a large operator, running a sideline business could possibly tender a lower amount but it should not be assumed that all operators have this opportunity, especially given the split time structure of this job.

I’m not sure that presuming another business can or does coexist is a legal or moral premise to begin with, the same with “private” operators. Our tender quotes were based on our individual circumstances and priced accordingly for competitiveness. By not accepting tendered rates and deciding upon a unified rate structure there is no competitiveness and so individual circumstances of potential respondents should not have even be considered. The department has a job that needs doing and is obliged to pay a fair rate for that service. It therefore should price this according to the service itself and not consider the particular “type” of person who may wish to provide it.

The idea that those who have purchased fully business related assets were expected to accept lower rates because others may have a possible private or business usage seems quite strange. It was the Department who decided on a standard set of rates, not the operators. While most would believe this is probably a fairer method all round, fitting everybody into what is perceived to be the more common predicament is absurd. The Department should not “pigeonhole” operators to fit what it believes or desires. It is not as it was anymore. This is a self-serving, ill considered principle which encourages illegal and damaging practises.

How was the figure of 65% arrived at? I presume there must be 65% of operators having only a single run, because any operator with more than one run would naturally be a business. Firstly, the obvious flaw with this is that the other 35% have to fit into this ideology by default. I find this totally astounding.  Secondly, on what basis was it presumed that a single operator with a single run MUST, by definition, possess a private component? Was there any other investigation done to ascertain if this notion was correct? Perhaps if every one of these single runs was in the Sedan Category then this would suggest this premise had some merit. Even in the Wagon Category, part private use could be justified – to a degree. (Though most people I speak with have purchased their Wagon specifically for the Run and own other cars).

Do the decision makers truly believe that people would CHOOSE to purchase a Mini or Maxi bus for personal use, or even more ridiculous, to then pay the $17,000 needed to modify that vehicle for wheel chairs? Seriously, do they really envisage Mr and Mrs 60 hopping into these huge vehicles to travel to Bingo or to grab a loaf of bread?

To get a true measure of the “mum and dad” operators you would need to begin with only those who REQUESTED one run, not simply those that HAVE one run. Requesting more than one run by its nature means the intention is business. You would then need to remove from this equation all of the single run operators with vehicles in categories above a wagon. What remains would be a more accurate figure of the true number of “mum and dad” operators.

Basing the value of this service on the notion that 65% are “mum and dad” operators deprives the TRUE costs to the 35% of business operators. If this figure had been deduced more carefully, the TRUE percentage may more accurately be the reverse. Again, the fact that you CAN earn money by using a private asset should not be the basis for any pay structure. Is it ethical to pay someone less, based on the circumstances of someone else? I am having difficulty in trying to think of even one other business where this might occur.

If the department prefer to have operators who use only privately owned vehicles and supply only one run to each operator, then I’m sure that savings can be made, at least in the Sedan, or even the People Mover Category. One could see the logic in private use co-existing with the same asset, but since larger vehicles without a private component are necessary for student transport, it would be impossible to include them in a private “one run, one operator” policy. To pay each operator lowered rates based on a “one run, one operator” policy implies the inclusion of a private nature which I would have thought would negate the need of a tender process to start with. Doesn’t a Request for Tender imply business? I’m not sure myself, but are there ever Requests for Tenders that are NOT for business?

This prevalent view that most operators are pensioners or housewives is rooted in the past, when it was stressed that operators NOT purchase specific vehicles, and payments were made on this basis. Requirements today are reversed and vehicles for a run are a prerequisite, yet rates were still based on the past. Put simply, you can’t have it both ways. It is these antiquated opinions that contribute to the ever increasing barrier between the Department and operators. It is evident in every contract, every remark and every decision made. This ingrained idea that we should be remunerated in 2012 on the basis of how it was prior to 2002 should be abolished. It is NOT how it was and the DEC should educate staff (and management) to change this derogatory opinion of operators which seems to be based on their own business ignorance. They need to discontinue prescribing their archaic beliefs and treat operators as a business and with the respect that they deserve.

The new Tax system necessitated this program change to a business structure or we would have defaulted to an employer/employee relationship, hence the 2002 Tender. The mere fact at that time the majority may have been “private operators” did not nullify them from the defined business nature of the contract. The moment that Tender was introduced, and with it an ABN, any private dealings with operators ceased.

To use some inductive reasoning, the DEC put out a Request for Tender – which implies Business. To respond, an ABN is mandatory which implies Business. Respondents were to precisely follow all RFT rules, sign a legal contract, follow business legislation, obtain business vehicle registration and insurance, accept the provision of a RCTI and abide by stringent contract rules. All of this is characteristic of a business. I would think – “If it looks like a duck………………”

Nothing will change while ever the view of operators is tainted from remnants of times past. Until the “powers that be” accept the significant changes that the current times bring, there will be constant turmoil undermining the fluent and successful operation of this program. The AST program is a service to the public, financed by the government and performed by legitimate business operators, and nothing less.

 

 

 

 

 

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