A stunning attack from Australian Racing Board chief executive Peter McGauran in response to the Australian Jockeys' Association's pursuit of superannuation payments has set the scene for a potentially messy legal battle.
Speaking on RSN radio from New York on Monday, McGauran said that the AJA was ''holding a gun to the head of racing authorities'' by pursuing potential retrospective superannuation claims. He called the AJA claim ''cowardly'' and threatened legal action if the association pursued retrospective superannuation entitlements.
McGauran's outburst shocked AJA chairman Ross Inglis, who denied the claim that the AJA sought to impose any sort of financial strain on the racing industry, explaining the association merely sought to clarify the entitlements of its members in relation to superannuation with the Tax Office.
''We have never asked for retrospectivity, we've simply asked the question of the ATO as to what our members are entitled to and we're still waiting on a decision paper from them,'' Inglis said.
''If the ATO deems that they [jockeys] have claims to superannuation and always have had those claims, the ATO will advise us as to suitable and relevant retrospectivity. We don't determine that and we certainly have not demanded it.
''If the ARB wants to fight any decision from the ATO in court, it will be fighting the ATO not the AJA and it will be spending industry dollars to do so.''
Currently, jockeys' superannuation varies from state to state but it is typically a self-funded system. In Victoria riders are expected to contribute a minimum of $15 per ride to self-managed superannuation and have done so for a number of years, but other states do not have such mandatory measures. This fractured theme continues to frustrate Inglis and the AJA on a variety of issues as well as the discussion of superannuation.
''We've still got separate [riding] licences in each state and different rules as well; we're in the Dark Ages in many aspects,'' he said.
''Surely the sensible thing to do in this case is to work together for an agreement that is accepted by both parties and then to take it to the ATO, I wouldn't have thought that labelling jockeys as cowards would have been helpful.''
The AJA and the state jockeys' associations have made significant ground in recent years in their bid to improve working conditions and jockeys' rights, with the development of the National Jockeys Trust in 2004 and an industry contribution to public liability and personal accident, death and disability insurance in 2005, both significant developments in jockey welfare.
Late last year the AJA successfully lobbied the federal government for key changes to allow female riders to access the government's paid parental leave scheme after anomalies in government legislation and ARB rules had prevented them from doing so.