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Loco Express: Secretary’s Report

May 1, 2020

Dear members,

Here’s your latest Loco Express: COVID-19 edition. Let us know if these updates are helpful and if there is more that you would like to know. As you’re aware, the Division is working around the clock to ensure we update you on any employer developments as soon as possible.

Though the situation has calmed somewhat, we’re not out of the woods yet. Some employers are still looking to take advantage of the situation and try to take away members’ well-earned rights and we’re also sick of hearing the same line from employers saying that they can’t answer our questions. What can they do then? What are they there for other than to make decisions and address concerns? 

We’re continuing to talk to employers with frequent meetings from our COVID-19 taskforce. We are following government health advice very closely and making certain that employers are too.

Well, May Day has come early for each and every RTBU Pacific National Member that stood up against PN in their race to circumvent rights and conditions under the cover of this global pandemic with PN advising yesterday that they would now focus on working within the confines of the EA’s.

Pacific National have come back to realise there are enough flexibilities in the existing EA’s.

RTBU remains open to sensible discussions with Pacific National on COVID-19 but is not prepared to support the wholesale removal/changing of members’ EA conditions in a midnight snatch and grab attack. Emergency situations come and go and on each and every occasion we deal with them sensibly and logically. What PN proposed could only be seen as an opportunistic and an ideological attack on workers’ rights. World oil prices having plummeted, along with near record coal tonnages is no doubt giving PN higher than normal profit margins, yet they continue to push their employees to the limit in the middle of a pandemic. So much for the safety rhetoric we continue to hear from PN.

In other employer news, QUBE  responded to our letter which addresses concerns that QUBE was not bargaining in good faith. Whilst QUBE stated that they still wished to continue with negotiations, they advised that they are unable to continue with the most recent terms including wage increases. A meeting is being arranged with the Company and Delegates to discuss options to see if a resolution can be found, but if QUBE continue with their current position then members will need to consider what options they have including protected industrial action.

Members will be aware of the current situation with COVID 19 and the effects it is having our work environment, families, and social lives. What members may not be aware of is NSW Trains appalling approach to dealing with COVID 19 and its effect on members, highlighted in their refusal to cease any New Intercity Fleet (NIF) efforts and forging ahead with their proposals regardless of the current crisis.  It is our view that the testing on the NIF is not required at all in the current environment.  The train is not performing an “essential service” as it is not an in revenue service and is not required to be for the foreseeable future.  Yet NSW Trains continues to expose its workers to this unnecessary risk.

It is clearly apparent that NSW Trains have an agenda regarding NIF and nothing is going to stop them achieving their outcomes, COVID included. All this is occurring without any apparent regard for how the members actually feel about their proposals and what it means to their working lives.

Members and Delegates within Sydney Trains continue to advocate for improved practices in response to COVID-19, having recently seen cab cleaning at turnaround locations extended to take in weekend running. Existing measures also continue to be audited by Reps and HSR’s as the Loco Division remains committed to the health and safety of Members.

On another positive note, Pass membership continues to increase month on month, as new drivers enter the Sydney Trains training course. Organisers and Delegates continue to meet the new recruits and welcome them to the Locomotive Division family. As we all know, Rail is historically a fiercely Union industry and that proud tradition is being carried on by our next generation of drivers and Unionists.

In other Industry news Rail transport operators have been exempted by the Transport Minister from having to do a period health assessment as required by the Rail Safety National Law (NSW);  where the rail transport operator (employer) has:

(a)    Identified there are issues accessing authorised health professions as a result of impacts from COVID, completed a risk assessment for the affected rail safety workers – which determines on their most recent health assessment – that it is low risk to postpone the period health assessment; and

(b)   Fully documented any change management and consultation processes in relation to operating under this exemption, and is communicated within its organisation

  • This does not include triggered health assessments, pre-placement or risk category health assessments
  • This exemption will automatically cease to operate after three months (24 July 2020) 

Keep up the fight. There is strength in numbers. Also, please don’t forget to join us tonight for the May Day toast online here for some enjoyment during these hard times. 

Please contact the division if you have any concerns.

Stay safe on the tracks.

In Solidarity, 

Bob Hayden
RTBU Locomotive Division Secretary