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Loco Express: Secretary’s Report

Apr 17, 2020Secretary's run-down

April 17, 2020

Issue 2: COVID-19

Dear members,

Welcome to another edition of the Loco Express: COVID-19 edition. We hope that these special member communications are helping keep you updated on everything we are doing to ensure members are safe and secure. 

As you are no doubt aware, it’s a fast moving situation and we can’t predict what the government or employers will say next. That’s why we’re on the front lines meeting with employers constantly to update them on your needs and update you on the latest developments. We have dedicated COVID-19 taskforces that take your complaints directly to the people that can/should be able to resolve them. The challenge is making them resolve members’ issues/concerns and not just get the normal “we will look into that” or “we will get back to you as we need to talk internally first” which is utter bullshit. If they cannot make the decisions or do their jobs then they should be removed and replaced by someone who can!

The RTBU is also reviewing what  is coming from/being announced by government and health officials on a regular basis and doing what we can to make sure employer policies align with the advice. We are doing everything in our power to make sure employers keep all members safe whilst continuing to turn up for work every day to perform their critical role in keeping the economy functioning by making sure goods and the public are moved safely.

In major news, PN are seeking to take full advantage of this global crisis to attack  members’ rights and conditions in a display of appalling behaviour and complete disregard for the ongoing hard work and efforts of members working diligently throughout the crisis. They are demanding members agree to major changes to the QLD Coal EA, the NSW Coal and Bulk EA and the National Intermodal EA which cover nearly 1,700 members across the country. We’ve seen a huge surge in support from members and new members (welcome!) with over 900 signatures in less than 24 hours on our national petition and almost 300 on the Queensland PN Coal petition. This is a massive betrayal from a company making record profits as far we know and absolutely unacceptable. 

There is no nice way to say it, other than it is an act of pure bastardy, seeking to take full advantage of members’ concerns for their own and their families’ health and welfare. They want to increase profits without addressing all member concerns regarding workplace issues associated with COVID-19 in the workplace, such as social distancing, rest and barracks locations, car travel etc.

Members are advised that the RTBU have not agreed to any of the changes proposed by Pacific National or to support a vote to change your current Enterprise Agreement/s.

The RTBU and Members have always and will always work cooperatively with employers who seek to discuss issues openly, transparently and without threats and have, when necessary, been able to negotiate temporary measures to support the business, members’ employment and Depots. When we have been able to reach agreement on temporary and necessary workplace changes as endorsed by the members affected, they have been introduced by agreement and without the need to permanently change Enterprise Agreements.

Whilst the Company wants to push for a formal vote to vary your existing Enterprise Agreement/s the Locomotive Division, unless otherwise supported/determined by members, will not agree in advance to vary your Enterprise Agreement/s.

In other news, we had some big wins for MomentumRail workers earlier with confirmation of outstanding superannuation balances being paid and the company advising they are willing to enter into a new National EA.

QUBE is also seeking to take advantage of the Coronavirus situation as an excuse to propose a wage freeze and suspending any further negotiations for a new enterprise agreement. Members are rightly angry with the Company when they continue to make profits and win contracts.

Unfortunately PN Coal recently advised employees at Inner Harbour Depot that their depot numbers will need to be reduced due to the loss of one of their local contracts in this troubled climate. This will mean short-term redeployment for affected employees. We understand how much stress and hardship this will cause and we urge you to take advantage of the company’s employees assistance program.

We know this situation has been overwhelming and it continues to wear us down. Thank you for all your hard work, commitment and dedication. We see you and we hear you. Everyone has gone above and beyond to continue to sustain our communities.

Further to the above I can advise that we have put in place processes to allow the Division/organisers to continue to function as best we can should we be forced to vacate the Division’s office.

Organisers are still contactable via their mobile phones as normal and have now been issued with laptop computers with full remote access to their files, drives, emails and the RTBU server and have the ability to conduct video, audio and telephone meetings as needed. Organisers will be required to use the issued/available communications options to conduct regular delegate meetings. Executive are also going to be set up to participate in and/or call regular sectional (Passenger and/or Freight) delegate online and/or audio conferences as required.

At this stage the office remains staffed and whilst our admin staff have been  sent home, they have been set up to continue to answer calls, contact Organisers and work as normal as possible.

We are seeking to put in place what is needed to continue to run as normal as possible  even if we are forced to close the physical office, although there may be situations where something will need to be dealt with differently and/or there may be a slight delay in responding to an enquiry.

Employers are now progressively moving all meetings/conferences to video and/or audio and the Division and each organiser is set up and trained to be able to join and/or arrange these meetings.

If you are planning on coming to our office in Pitt Street, please be advised that the building has had the lifts locked off for general access, so to gain access all you need to do is call in advance or when you are downstairs and someone will come down and get you.

Our Newcastle office is now closed and Newcastle based organisers are working remotely but still available to deal with issues and members enquiries as normal via phone, email and video conferencing.

It is only in the most difficult of times that we see the true strength of members and the courage of each and every member to continue to work and carry out their duties professionally even when a number of employers are seeking to take advantage of the current COVID-19 pandemic.

Members would be aware of the recently Federally passed Jobseeker legislation and may be concerned that it could be used by your employer, as such the following link provides basic information on the Jobseeker legislation here as prepared by the RTBU National Office.

Stay safe on the tracks.

In Solidarity, 

Bob Hayden
RTBU Locomotive Division Secretary