Holiday Over Already?

I hope you all had a good holiday. Unfortunately I blinked and missed it.

Ok, so we all signed the acceptance forms for the new rates to begin in May and of course there was the added condition of signing to make sure we all continued our runs come the first day of the second term. Were we really going to not start back? After all, it was only a fair deal we wanted in the first place so why would we not return and take advantage of the extra bit of money that will “come what May”? Ok, so excuse my attempt at a joke.

Was anyone else as confused as I was today? What day was it? Off Monday, work Tuesday, off Wednesday, work Thursday and Friday. Trying to explain that to the little ones was hard. Coming back after more than two weeks away, all eagerly anticipating the daily ritual of school only to find out that I wasn’t going to be taking them the next day, then again after 2 days it was holiday time again. Poor kids. Perhaps though – poor parents.

Anyway, back into the swing now. New kids added (or removed), addresses to find, times to re schedule, calls and texts to the parents, negotiating the traffic conditions and oh goody my favorite, setting alarms. And come Monday, the pay claim forms to sign, writers cramp coming up.

There will be no special treats for me this month though with the big 8 day pay. Oh well, maybe in June I can take hubby for a nice meal somewhere to celebrate my small windfall. Or not.

I attended the association meeting today at Hornsby RSL club, who seemed to enjoy the arrival of unexpected Saturday afternoon business. Worth the long trip, except I rarely drive that far for my holiday. There were many there from the Central Coast and Newcastle areas who probably thought the same. Surprisingly, my trip along the M7 was great, driving at a hundred clicks all the way. But then there was the dreaded Pennant Hills Rd to battle, and true to form, it was a nightmare. No wonder I have always preferred the south coast beaches to visit. Not for the sand and surf so much as the ease of the trip to get there. Fortunately I had a talkative passenger with me who filled the time.

The meeting went well and it was nice to be in the same place as other contractors all discussing the same problems. It made me feel less alone I suppose, and knowing that many are working on finding solutions was comforting.

I noticed the Site Team have included a Fun Page, ah, just what I need. And site members are nearing 70. My bet is a 100 by 3rd Term. Off to socialize, bye for now.




“I have had a holiday, and I’d like to take it up professionally.” – Kylie Minogue


A few weeks ago I was handed some medical information about some students on my run. I was told it was a request from the department that this information be handed to drivers. Wow! Finally. I have often thought it crazy that the privacy act, or what ever it was in the past that prevented us having this crucial information, was wrong. There could be situations where it is critical that we are aware of certain medical conditions with the students in our care, and most parents, who have already filled out this information, naturally believe as drivers, we already have it. This is a good move from the department.

Speaking of Medical, if you haven’t already done so, due tomorrow is the medical assessment certificate. It was a blessing that we were given an extension until the 13th of April because there were many other problems that we needed to overcome in those first 6 weeks of term 1. We did not need the added stress of this obligation. Well that was the good part. The problem we may find now, is the probability that many contractors may now have a very high blood pressure reading on their certificates because of all the recent stress due to many having been incorrectly paid. Oh Dear. I think I might go to a day spa preceding my doctors appointment.

Did you all enjoy your Easter? What lovely weather it was. I had that “first day feeling” on Good Friday. That feeling that comes with the anticipation of a whole 2 weeks of not worrying about traffic and time schedules and the likes. Of course by today, realizing almost a week has gone by, that extra happy feeling is subsiding. Soon it will be replaced with that mixed emotion of wanting to still be at home yet needing to earn money.

So much has been happening. The new pay rates being released and the continuing work being done on the business rules and the TSO pay rates, not to mention the formation of an association. This will be a huge benefit to contractors, especially those having their vehicle categories downsized. I have been told this is one of the first things that the association want to address. Hopefully they will get to the bottom of how this has come about. After all, many operators are still trying to find the pertinent clause in the contract on this while in the mean time suffering financial hardship while it is being sorted.




“Physicians and politicians resemble one another in this respect, that some defend the constitution and others destroy it.” ~Author Unknown


Opening my email tonight to view the new rates, I experienced a quick flash back to October last year, when I viewed the new Schedule of Pay Rates. Immediately I had panicked with that sentence, “the department has decided to issue a standard schedule of pay rates”. Department/Pay rates, Department/pay rates? No, this was not going to be good. And it wasn’t.

This time however, I felt differently, I knew these figures could only be higher than the first schedule so I excitedly viewed them, and, as I expect every contractor would have done, went straight to their own applicable rate. There it was, a figure I could work with. This makes all the difference to me, since I had only held on up until now to make my decision whether to keep my run or hand it back.

Of course, having a run with minimal kilometres, I certainly won’t be rich, but at least, unlike last term, I will not need to supplement the run using my own money. At least now I will earn enough to pay my car payments, fuel costs and pay a driver. To make enough for a little profit for my efforts though, I will desperately be hoping to be given a student who brings with it more kilometres. I won’t deny that I am not envious of those who are lucky enough to score a high Kilometre run, it is just the nature of the business I suppose. Pot Luck, and so I need to take the gamble. At least those small runs have now become viable.

What really makes me feel better about this new set of rates is in the way it came about. Regardless of contractors opinion of the rates, you can’t deny that the whole procedure was thoroughly researched with our interests in mind, yet still in keeping with the “Value for Money” policy of government tendering. Mainly though, for me, it’s the respect finally shown to us for our efforts. I feel Valued.

I would like the thank all those people involved in implementing the Ken Boston recommendations, especially given the short time frame. Mr Chris Raper, the team from PricewaterhouseCooper and those people who attended the Focus group meetings who voiced their concerns on behalf of all contractors.




“Respect for right conduct is felt by every body.” – Jane Austen


Much has been happening in the past few weeks. For those who don’t know, the rates are being revised ready for term 2. This was one of the recommendations made by Ken Boston in his report on the 1st term “debacle”. It’s a good read if you have time. The link to the full report can be found on our “Information” Page. Also, an operator has submitted his own interpretation of this report which can be found on our “Articles” Page.

It’s a shame this information was not previously given to operators. Many are still unaware that this review is taking place, and unless you had read the 22 page report there was no way to know of this particular recommendation. The knowledge of a potential rate rise may have given hope to those operators who had no choice but to “throw in the towel” and cease working for the ASTU. I can certainly understand their desperation and if it weren’t for knowing about this review myself, then I would have done the same.

The good news.  The Rates Review was put in the capable hands of Mr Chris Raper who certainly did his ‘due diligence’ before preparing his proposal. Mr Raper spoke to many operators and people from the transport industry to assess the necessary costs involved with the day to day transportation of students. He then employed PwC (PricewaterhouseCoopers) to work the figures and design models of suitable pay structures. These were then presented to various Focus Groups consisting of randomly selected operators. They were shown the proposal and asked to give feedback. A few members from this site were amongst them and have given us the ‘goss’ on the whole thing. You will find the report on the Review of Rates in our “Articles” section.

The bad news. This new rates proposal is still to be considered in the coming weeks by the government. The same government that gave us this new schedule or rates I presume. Still, with more accurate figures now presented to them, there may be a “glimmer of hope” of some “light at the end of the tunnel”. But I wouldn’t count on there being a “pot of gold at the end of the rainbow”.


Cheers                                                                            Buttercup


“One way to make sure crime doesn’t pay would be to let the government run it.” – Ronald Reagan


Oh yes, finally that day arrived. Of course my pay has all gone now, but it  did manage to hold off the bank, keep my phone active and put a bit of food on the table. Gone are the days I suppose, when a contractor presented an invoice for work done and actually got paid for the amount written on the statement. I decided, if that’s the way it is done these days then I might try the same. Both my Electrician and Plumber were not amused when, after 3 weeks, I paid them only three quarters of what they claimed on their invoices. I explained to them that I disagreed with the itemized time they said they had taken to perform the work. I also explained that another reduction for overheads was to be expected, because the necessary equipment needed for my particular job could have been suitably transported using a smaller vehicle, and not their large fitted out trucks they had arrived in. Needless to say, they weren’t happy. Me, what would I care – the job was done.

How many of you were paid correctly? I understand there has been an average of over 20 operators per day needing to email the department with pay complaints. Now of course some mistakes may be put down to the new system being used, and some could be put down to the data entry of newly employed staff, but 20 a day? As predicted, now the systems will be clogged trying to rectify them all.

I would say many, if not all of the ones complaining, are like myself, all having our vehicle categories now changing with the number of students. Who is “calling the shots” down there? Who, at this crucial time, when operators are teetering on handing back their runs would take the time to deliberately scrutinize the contract in such a way as to try and find any inkling of a ‘loophole’ so as to “claw” back money from the already underpaid operators? I mean, didn’t they raise the minimum rate to 30 Klms for this term so as to keep these runs going smoothly.

I must say it is getting harder and harder to talk in my blog and not sound bitter. Before I end, I will just mention that the the Site Team have done a great job with the new look “News” Page. They have also added 2 more pages for your contributions. One of those is “Operations Issues”, where you can submit the issues you would like to see addressed by the association. The other is “Articles”. This is the page where you can submit any articles you feel would be of interest to readers. They can either be written by yourself or taken from a magazine or website (in this case please reference author). They don’t need to be in the area of our job, just something you would like to share. Bye For Now.


Cheers                                                               Buttercup


“It is impossible to suffer without making someone pay for it; every complaint already contains revenge” – Friedrich Nietzsche

End of February

Welcome, to the many new people who have registered on this site. Feel free to join in the forums and have your say. Also, to the many many viewers that are increasing daily, why not also become an active member and register. Your identity is strictly confidential.

The end of February already, and yes, for all those people like me who always leave things till the last minute, BAS time. Having an extra month for this BAS still does not alleviate the headache for me, adding and entering all those receipts, hoping all is correct before popping it in the mail box right at the last second. Then the dreaded Bpay necessary. Oh dear, not enough in the bank to cover it. Thoughts turn to that eagerly anticipated first pay since December. I think, “how long will it take this time, will it be my form that somehow always makes its way to the bottom of the pile, did I forget a date, did I sign it in the right spot, will it be sent back for correction”? Or the real biggie? Will my form end up in the monthly missing mail bag? Oh No! Not that! That means another four weeks before my pay can be processed. My heart sinks, I now realize I need to spend an hour trying to get through to a person at the ATO to get an extension.

Of course it’s all new this year, no one really knows what to expect. Did they get their system working by the 17th as stipulated in that report? Will their system accurately calculate kilometers this time? Will this ‘you beaut’ system allow us any distance to at least turn our cars around in the closet safest position, or will we be still expected to pick it up and do a 180? Will it still have our routes turning over medium strips or driving down one way streets or worse, non existent streets. I hope it is fixed. I hope the head honchos aren’t just sipping coffee while the already overworked office staff deal with it all. And does anyone ever get through on the phones??

Speaking of those claim forms. Wow! The drivers got writers cramp having to sign their name 46 times. And how are they using the klms to pay us, as one savvy member questioned?  Is it am and pm or daily? It does say on the sheet that it is the daily rate combined, so what is the point of writing am and pm? The total will still be the same.

Another rumbling at the moment is the change in categories. Maxi busses are now mini busses. Small wheel chairs are now sedans. Are people movers also now sedans if they are driving less than 5 children? I suppose the next couple of weeks will tell all. Then expect the system to be clogged while they attempt to rectify claims from all the aggregated operators. I can see another ‘debacle’ coming.

What a miserable driving experience we are having whether wise. So much rain (and so much mud in the car). How are all you people going in those flooded areas? With roads and bridges closed it must mean rather big detours are necessary for you. Good luck.

The Site team have added some links to various sites so check them out. There have also been some more stories added to “Your Page” and some interesting articles from site members are soon to be added as well. Happy reading.


Cheers                                                                    Buttercup


“As our case is new, we must think and act anew.” Abraham Lincoln

Fourth Week In

Here we are, about to start our 4th week already. How are you all going? According to Andrew Picolli and the Premier, most of the children were allocated transport within the first couple of days. My my, sounds like little fibbies to me. Either way, they heard what they wanted to hear and relayed that information to the public to ‘save face’. After all, it would be easy to believe there were only 60 students left to find runs for, how would they really know? Still, in the last few weeks, many operators, for what ever reason were at first refused all their runs, now have them back again. Makes sense to do this and get the kids to school and make the Premier happy, but it will create more problems “when the dust settles”. Those problems are now just starting to surface with many many angry operators missing out on runs all together while some have multiples again. Hmmm?

Can’t see a way out of this one. I believe that it would be against the “transparency” rules in the tender to allow this now that we are all on the same rate, yet how can they remove runs from operators after they have been allocated? Hmmm?

The Ken Boston report came out on the expected date, Friday the 10th February. Have you all read it? You will find it on this site if you would like to read it in its entirety. If not, to summarize, a couple of top notch people got a slap on the wrist and a recommendation was made to review the rates to change in Term 2. Oh goody. A bit more money thrown our way in the hopes it will keep us happy and so continue ensuring this valuable program continues running smoothly. If they seriously want things to go smoothly, and if they seriously don’t want to find themselves still on the wrong side of the law, then we would all need a minimum of $200 plus per day. Is there no one in that office that can add figures? FIGURES DO NOT LIE. I mean, aren’t we talking about the treasury department here? Isn’t it them who decides our pay rates? Excuse me if I sound ignorant, but gee, I thought treasury is to do with money and numbers, therefore I naturally assumed they would employ people who could easily add. Just as I thought with the departments legal team, that their lawyers would  know the law.

We will just have to wait and see I suppose. They had better make it worthwhile though. There are “rumblings amongst the natives” and law suits appear to be starting all over the state.

Well again I’m on with the sarcasm, hopefully soon I can add some jest to my blog. I’m generally happy, unless wronged, then I’m like a “dog with a bone”.




“History teaches us that men and nations behave wisely once they have exhausted all other alternatives.” –  Abba Eban

“Good things come to those who wait” Well that certainly wasn’t written by anyone who had been suffering huge expenses while waiting patiently, for the new RFT. No. Good things did not come. Still, we plod on. Well most of us anyway. I feel badly for the 5% who had no option but to decline the new schedule of pay rates, yet I feel just as badly for those that did. What a shock it is to return to work doing the same job I have been doing for years, but now my pay is back to rates from 10 years ago. Personally, I’m just giving it a month to see if anyone at the the department sees the “error of their ways”. I can’t do as is expected of me in the contract, else my daily loss would be $25 each day for each run. I love my job but can’t continue being a charity worker forever. I need an income. I have bills to pay like the next person.

I had planned to be organized when school resumed. I was going to have my vehicles all serviced and new drivers approved, but since I was not sure if my runs would be forthcoming, or even if they would be viable, I didn’t get to it. I wasn’t going to waste even more of my valuable time on departmental compliance. After all, the whole nightmare of the tender now turns out to be a waste of time. Well “more fool me”. My runs did come in the mail and then it was a mad rush to arrange drivers and cars and services etc. Fortunately I have some approved friends driving who are aware of the circumstances and are willing to drive for less than the award until I decide what to do.

Well my first morning started with the usual headaches, wrong addresses and phone numbers, children not starting at the date on the run card, parents complaining about pick up times etc etc. I got through it OK and came home after the morning run to receive a hurried phone call from a friend who said “quick, turn on Ray Hadley on 2GB”. I fumbled with the dial of course, because I don’t listen to that station. In fact, where is that station?? Turns out its an AM station, so I jumped on the computer and listened live. Wow! Something has really ‘hit the fan’. Parents complaining, operators complaining, Ray Hadley ‘doing his block’. Problems all round with over 740 students not getting to school. Wow, more people were affected by the price cuts than what I thought. I listened intently while it was announced the problems were due to the transition of the contracts with the operators and that some operators were handing their runs back as late as Friday. Ok, so what are they saying? That the operators were to blame?? Why don’t they be honest and say that:
1) The education department offered less than award pay to their contractors and that they expect them to cover their car expenses as a charitable gesture.
2) Most runs were only allocated less than 2 weeks before school returned, with some not allocated until the previous Thursday.
3) They were informed by many operators in October the previous year that there would be problems with operators not accepting runs.
4) That someone high up in their office obviously has only ‘half a brain’ if they relied on the acceptance forms as being a reliable indication that “happy” operators will continue to work for nothing.

Perhaps a bit of honesty was needed here, but no, the operators were to be the scapegoats in this debacle. While I feel sorry for the parents and children, it was GOOD to finally see what happens when the “powers that be” stuff things up because of penny pinching.

Off to do my afternoon run, have a good one.




“Honesty is a good thing, but it is not profitable to its possessor unless it is kept under control.”  –  Don Marquis

Back To School

Hello again and a Happy New Year to all. The Site Team and myself hope you had a lovely break. Please don’t scold me for being so overdue, both with the Blog, and the answers to the Xmas trivia. Have been a bit busy of late. You will find those answers there now and I hope the questions didn’t frustrate you too much.

There were still many schools who did not pass on the site address to the drivers at their school so please, if you don’t mind passing it on to all those you come across on your travels. “The more the Merrier” they say. Or perhaps in this case, “Strength in Numbers”.

Oh dear! How to keep this blog fun and lighthearted with all the turmoil surrounding us all. I suppose by now, most of you have received your runs, plus the contract, and have decided what you are going to do come Monday. The poor staff at Wollongong are flat out. I have heard that there is much chaos and many children are still not placed on runs. I have also heard that many people have had to hand their runs back due to the low pay rates. How sad it all is. There are willing, capable and loyal contractors and drivers out there who are now without employment. There is office staff pulling their hair out trying to cope, frustrated parents not knowing if their children will get to school come Monday, and then their are the “powers that be” from the city office, who did their job of minimizing their budget, but doubt that they are now around for the ‘fall out’.

The only good news so far was the amendment in clause16.1 in the contract. They are now going to pay for short term absences. Ok, that’s good, a bit like a minimum daily rate, providing though, that you start the run with adequate kilometers. Not worth anything to those who don’t. And where is the full explanation of how this will work? Too many contradictions. So they pay you if any children are off for a while, but they DON’T pay you for a non loaded vehicle. What if you only have a small run and all are away. You could do the drive (fuel, wages), yet it will be an unloaded vehicle. Hmm?Nice gesture, I thought at first. NOT. This was simply done to alleviate the need for extra office staff who would be needed to cope with the multiple mapping that would have been necessary for every single run, every single month. Even just a few absences would have meant 1, 2, or even 10 variations to one run every month. No, don’t be fooled, this is not goodwill on their part. It’s a shame though that we weren’t informed of this change prior to many runs been handed back and many people leaving. Those people may have looked at their runs a bit differently if they had known.

Off topic now before my seething spoils my day. Only 2 days left of a six week break. Ok, can someone tell me where that six weeks went? Sure, I had a lovely Xmas with my family, and I did manage to get a few overdue jobs done around the house, but what happened to all the plans I had made for all the time I was expecting? They say “time flies when you’re having fun”, well for me, it flies by even when I’m not.

I must say, while the weather has confused me, I have really enjoyed not having those horrible hot hot days. As I sit here typing, the breeze is blowing and my wind chimes serenade my ears. It’s nice. Off to the Trots tonight. Not for the races, but for the company that invited Hubby and me. We will drink and chat and eat. Just what I love to do. See you all next time and good luck for the start of another year.




“Concern should drive us into action, not depression”  ~ Karen Horney

Run Card Day

Finally, most people seem to have received their runs. Did you all get good ones? Well, as good as can be under the circumstances I suppose. Not the most exciting day really. Yes, good that they arrived, but of course miserable with this new Schedule of Pay Rates, which in some instances are even lower than they were a decade ago. Gone are those days now. No more increases, no more minimum daily rates, in fact, barely enough to cover the costs. Oh yes I forgot. We are to be the government charity workers. Three cheers for us. How nice we are to surrender our time for the good of the community.

Ok, enough sarcasm, time now for me to evaluate and decide whether to either make a pittance for my effort, or go and “work for the man”. At least “the man” has a guideline to pay me by. He is not allowed to pay “sweat shop labour” prices. He MUST pay for my time and effort, he MUST pay me for my car expenses, he MUST be up front and open with me with any contract. Gosh, I wonder why I didn’t do this in 2007 when the last tender ended? Oh yes, I know why, I had carrots dangling in front of me for the last 5 years, with the promise of a fairer payment just around the corner in the soon to be released RFT. Funny. Five years preparation time and there were still 5 Addendums in the tender. They can’t even get THAT right.

Ok, I can see by my continual sarcasm that my mood is not the best today for writing what should be a lighthearted blog so I will end this now, go off and kick a wall or something, then come back when my mood is better. Poor hubby when he comes home tonight, his ears will pain him with the sound of me getting things off my chest.


Cheers                                                                               Buttercup


“The concept of the ‘good ol’ days’ must be our society’s biggest delusions, top reasons for depression….” Bo Bennett


A big WELCOME to all of you new to this site

It’s that busy, bustling time of year again, and now with only 2 sleeps till Christmas day, for me there is still much to do.  I have promised myself that one year I will be more prepared and not let that date creep up by surprise. One year, I will have it all done early then sit back and enjoy the anticipation of Xmas. Of course I’m not sure when that year will come. It seems the older I get the shorter the years become.

There was a good response from schools in handing this site address to their drivers, and we would like to thank them for this effort. Would you all please spread the address to other drivers and contractors you may know so as to cover the schools that may have been too busy to pass it on. That way, many more will know of this site and perhaps they will also participate in the forums.

Interestingly, there were over 600 special needs units or schools in NSW to which we sent our email request. In our research for these we found a full list of not only the names of each, but also a brief description of what  special classes they offer. We have all seen the ‘initials’ preceding the school units on our run cards but not all of us are aware of what they stand for or what particular disability each each covers. This was of interest to us, so we have provided this link on the information page.

Talking to other contractors, it seems I was not the only one to have a good belly laugh that day when we all received an email suggesting that most of the runs will be distributed “by Christmas”.  I think most of us have experienced the panic of not having run cards as late as a day before school starts, so to them, this news was even more hilarious. Naughty of me I know, to be so sarcastic, but…………  Besides, we all know that the attempt to do this was in no way as a courtesy to us, but rather a desperate need for the department to establish just how many runs will be covered and how many, once reality sets in, will be returned. An early release of the runs would give them a month to re allocate.

Of course by no means am I intending to belittle the hard working office staff at the department. I know at this moment they would have their “heads down and butts up” making sure all the pays get done by Christmas. This would be a mammoth task, so cheers to you all.

Well I’m off now to fight the crowds for those last minute Xmas things. I hope you all have a really nice Xmas and a well deserved break.


Cheers                                                                     Buttercup


“Oh for the good old days when people would stop Christmas shopping when they ran out of money”.    ~  Author Unknown

First Ramble

This is the place for me to just ramble, so I’m told. Well, I must admit, that shouldn’t be a problem for me because rambling is what I do way too often – so I’m told. But they asked, and so I will oblige.

Where to start though. It should have been with great excitement that I write the Blog for this site, with it’s launch date finally arriving and with the anticipation of Xmas and the up and coming holiday season around the corner, but, alas, with the recent depressing news from the department my excitement and enthusiasm have taken a beating. Not to worry though, I bounce back, that’ s just me! And besides, like many of you out there, we sent those emails to get if off our chests, even though it would not change anything, it always helps to get things of your chest. My poor hubby can testify to this, after all, he cops all my rants. My chest feels better, but his ears are always a bit worse for wear. Not that I’m worried about that, men seem to just have that Knack of switching off, yet their heads bob or shake at the right time to make believe they are really listening. Doesn’t matter that I know it’s gone in one ear and out the other because at least it is off my chest, and I feel better. (My apologies to all you male drivers out there, trust me, your wives know what I mean)
See, here I go, off on a tangent now about husbands, typical, back to the subject. Yes, the woes. Well they come and go so please excuse my blog if I am on a downer some days but I will try to keep up a happy spirit as best I can. I certainly don’t want to contribute to the doom and gloom we now feel.

I was looking forward to rambling here a few times a week, about the highs, and sometimes lows of driving special needs children for the ASTP. My intention was to relate some fun or some heartwarming stories or to bring you any relevant news or tips, or simply share my day and generally feel like I was having a virtual coffee with fellow drivers. Maybe crack a joke or two, or gosh, even share a recipe. Surely I am not restricted to only talk work stuff here, surely I can discuss with you a good bargain if I come across one, or a bit of facetious banter when the urge takes me. I will check this with these site developers, then who knows where these ramblings would lead.
Well, that was my intention, the irony though, is my decade long association with the Dept. is soon to come to an end and so, this blog in the future may not contain work related chats. Of course, like many, I will wait to see what run, if any, gets offered to me. Then a quick calculation using the new schedule of pay rates to see if it’s viable. Chances are slim that it will be if my current run is anything to go by, but, as I said, happy happy till then.


Cheers                                                                                               Buttercup


“The best way to cheer yourself up is to try to cheer somebody else up.” – Mark Twain