Truckies bung on blockade

IT was mayhem at Macks- ville yesterday morning as a group of owner-operator truck drivers blocked the Pacific Highway for eight hours. The truckies parked across Macksville bridge from 11pm Thursday night until police cleared the protest around 7am Friday, with all but one driver agreeing to move on vol- untarily. They were protesting against escalating fuel prices, low wages and poor working condition, and want the Federal Govern- ment to establish a mini- mum pay rate and more industry regulations. President of the Long Distance Owners and Driv- ers Association, Bunny Brown, who was involved in the blockade said own- er-drivers couldn't keep up with growing costs. "We're working for nearly nothing," he told ABC radio. "They can put fuel up to $11 a litre if they like, as long as we get the right rate to do it, but that's go- ing to hurt the public,

isn't it? "We just want to make a living, a straight-out liv- ing." Police reported more than 200 trucks banked up on either side of the bridge, although only a few were involved in the protest. Nambucca Mayor Cr George Hicks said it was disappointing things had to go this far. "It was a major disrup- tion to the Pacific High- way and people trying to get to work or going on holidays," he said. "It's a bit disappointing that they felt this was the only way to get their mes- sage across. "But hopefully it will have some long-term bene- fits." The Australian Truck- ing Association and Trans- port Workers Union were quick to distance them- selves from the protest. Federal assistant trea- surer Mal Brough urged big transport companies to renegotiate contracts with owner-drivers and said an inquiry may be necessary.

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