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RTBU tour highlights problems facing regional workers

Jun 16, 2011Update

As the freight industry continues to expand, and the reactivation of country depots becomes increasingly important, I was pleased to have the chance to take a four-day regional NSW tour to meet with members and delegates to discuss the issues they are facing.

RTBU delegate Bryan Williams and I travelled to Enfield, Mudgee, Werris Creek, Narrabri, Parkes, Cootamundra and Moss Vale and gained a comprehensive update of conditions from workers on the ground.

One key issue was poor-quality facilities, which range from inappropriate accommodation, where drivers were unable to get sufficient rest between shifts, poor quality of meal rooms and food available, and the shocking, unusable state of toilets on some locomotives.

With the shortage of drivers, back-to-back shifts are also creating potentially dangerous levels of fatigue in drivers.

Also of concern is the practice of recruiting new drivers on fixed-term contracts. Worried that their 12-month contract may not be renewed, these workers feel pressured not to join or associate with the union and are fearful of speaking out about unsafe or substandard conditions.

The member drive during the tour recruited 21 new members, including 11 from Parkes.

The meetings have strengthened the RTBU’s determination that the voices of our regional members are heard, and will continue to work on their behalf with employers to ensure that minimum standards are met and safety issues, particularly fatigue, are addressed.

Bob Hayden

NSW Loco Division Secretary