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Member Update 7th February 2013

7th February 2013

Dear Members,

I hope you all had a lovely Christmas, New Year and enjoyed your holiday period. This is the first Member Update for the year and it brings with itsome pluses, but also some minuses.

The year got off to a good start with all the Run Cards being sent as promised, in mid January. This was a great effort by AST staff to organize and coordinate all of the runs which allowed Operators enough time to plan and prepare prior to the start of the term. This made for a smooth start and it was lovely that Operators received an appreciative acknowledgement from the Assistant Director.

Where possible, to maintain consistency for parents, students, drivers and Operators, most Runs were returned to the same Operator, but the down side to this desirable practice has caused quite a bit of dissatisfaction in other areas.

Firstly, in rolling over Runs to the same Operator, which worked well in most cases, did not allow for corrections to be made with last year’s mistakes where runs (for an unknown reason) were distributed to different Operators leaving many long time and well deserving Operators without a Run. Therefore, in not having a run at the end of 2012 means many of these same Operators have missed out for a second year in a row. Compounding this is the new security added to the 2013 Contract Guide (5.3.1) where it could make it unlikely that their situation will soon improve. The Association is working on ways to assist AST with a remedy to this unfortunate anomaly.

The second is the consequence occurring when a Run offered back to the same Operator has been lowered to a Run Category required by the Department that is not in line with that of the Operators Tendered Vehicle Category. Irate calls from members were inquiring as to why Category Sliding was still continuing, made obvious in an accompanying agreement email where it states that the Operator will be “paid at a lower category rate which is appropriate to the number of students accessing the vehicle rather than the capacity of the vehicle”. This is in stark contrast to our understanding of the 2013 Contract Guide (5.2.2) which states the opposite – “Payment to the Run operator is based on the vehicle selected for service, not the number of students on the run”.

The Association has since been in contact with AST about this reversal and arrangements have been made for further meetings to discuss and (hopefully) sort out. Meanwhile, it was explained that the accompanying email, which many saw as “typical bullying tactics”, was meant only to clarify the individual predicament and create a “paper trail” to the agreement. Once pointed out that this email appears to give a cold and uncaring ultimatum, it was hastily re written, now having a far more sensitive approach. Any Run change is not taken lightly and there has been assurance from AST that before a Run is to be reorganized or cancelled it must first be approved by Suzanne Rothwell, Phillip Hirst or Angelo Guarnaccia.

It was also stressed by AST that their intent in Rolling over runs to the same Operators (regardless of any misalignment of Run Category/Vehicle Category), was a step they used to make sure all current operators at least “got something”. I personally believe this was their intention, and was not meant to be a repeat of the despicable practice of last year’s abhorrent behaviour toward operators, but I am still of the belief, as are all operators, that this procedure should never have been introduced within the current tender because it was not disclosed prior. So rest assured, the Association will continue in their attempt for a workable compromise. I do have faith that this contentious issue can somehow be sorted but it is a far more complex issue than I previously realized having many intricate facets to consider.

This year, as opposed to past decades, management at AST are willing to communicate and work with Operators to make sure all stakeholders with the program are satisfied. The “new” management are attempting to mend the widening divide and have given much of their time in meeting with Operators to discuss their individual problems. They have also offered to attend an Association meeting in order to hear and discuss any grievances from operators and work on solutions. This is a positive step.

A reminder again that no matter how frustrated you may feel, please treat the staff on the phone with polite respect. You should also expect the same in return. If this is not the case, feel free to inform us.

The Association’s affiliated website www.assistedtravel.info, is slowly (in fact – very slowly) undergoing a face lift. While this progresses you will need to regularly refresh each page that retains itself in your cache to update any changes.

A copy of the 2013 rates schedule is attached.

 

All the Best for 2013

Kind Regards

Rhonda

 

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