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Higher salaries for transport & distribution employees

By: Tom Young
07 July, 2010

Feature of the week: The news that almost half of transport and distribution employers expect to offer higher salaries next financial year provides an opportunity for employers in the sector to develop a more long-term, skilled workforce, according to experts.

The annual Hays Salary Guide, released this month, shows that employers in the sector are already starting to treat their workers less like casuals and more like long-term staff.

It says 43 per cent of employers in the sector expect to increase salaries by between three and six per cent. According to the study, another six percent of employers expect to increase salaries by six per cent. And 45 per cent of employers expecting to increase their number of permanent staff compared to 21 per cent last year.

A recovering economy and a $36 billion Commonwealth Government infrastructure investment scheme in roads, railways and ports means that the outlooks for the sector is healthy over the next few years.

Because of the variability of workflow, lean operating margins and intense competition, Transport and Logistics employers traditionally only hire labour and skills on a short term basis.

But this has implications for workforce efficiency and, in the longer term, for the industry's productivity.

Now is the time to develop a well paid long-term workforce that has the skills to grow the industry, according to Geoff Gwilym chief executive of the Transport and Logistics Industry Skills Council.

"Current training licenses meet the expectations of regulators, they do not serve the long-term benefit of the industry," he said. "We need to get a qualifications mentality rather than a licensing mentality."

One of the challenges ahead is how to attract the next generation of transport workers into an industry that has an older-the-average workforce.

New vehicle, transport and warehouse technologies have significantly increased the industry's competitiveness in the labour market but skills initiatives are needed to ensure the workforce is not left behind.

Typically a short term approach to employment means that staff are laid off when times are tough but as the economy strengthens and the demand for labour increases the sector experiences a labour shortage in these critical skills areas.

"It is therefore imperative that employers implement proactive strategies to retain present staff and recruit new staff who have the required skills (or the capacity to achieve them) to meet future demands," a recent report by the Skills Council said.

A recent report by the Victoria government found that the transport and storage industry has been suffering from skill shortages, particularly in metropolitan rail operations, long haul delivery and supply chain management skills. These skills are expected to remain in high demand in the region in the near future.

"As the economy moves away from a reliance on manufacturing more goods will be imported and the logistics industry needs to have the extra skills and workforce to take up that slack. Employers need to start tackling this now," said Charlie Donnelly, National Secretary of the National Union of Workers.

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