ANTI-PRIVATISATION FORUM: RECORD THE PAST, PAVE THE FUTURE

Luba Grigorovitch
Branch Secretary

As November rolls around, the clock is ticking for the state government. With the contracts for metropolitan trams and trains to expire on Nov 30, the government must be prepared to shake up arrangements for how the system is run, how information is shared, and how accountability can be ensured.

Continuing to build the case for systematic overhaul that prioritises the public interest, the RTBU worked to facilitate a forum of different individuals, interest groups, experts and public transport workers, RTBU delegates and retired members to build an account of public transport that reflects on 20 years of privatisation.

Held across the afternoon of Saturday 3 June forum attendees discussed many issues in public transport – from governance to maintenance and service delivery, the main topics covered focused on three main topics:

–    The perils and pitfalls of privatisation

–    The system under public administration

–    A new path forward

One of the first topics covered was the critical question of understanding why public transport was privatised in the first place. Unsurprisingly, an overwhelming number of attendees acknowledged governance issues, performance and funding issues as being central to pushing the system into private hands. Many who worked closely with the system through the years leading up to privatisation perceived a deliberate degradation of the system in preparation for privatisation.

What became evident was that while privatisation was Kennett’s response to a poorly governed public monopoly, he did little to address the underlying governance issues and just produced a poorly governed private monopoly. To this day, Victorians – transport workers, taxpayers and commuters alike – have been robbed of the transparency, consultation and oversight necessary for effective, well resourced public transport that is operated in the primary interest of the Victorian public.

Comparing the system under privatisation against public ownership several notable differences arose. Training, career progression and organisational structure were identified as major differences:

– Attendees reflected on how Victorian Railways was once a large trainer of highly skilled apprentices for the wider Victorian economy. As public responsibility has been eroded the scope of service and value provided by the operator has diminished to boost profitability.

– The railways used to operate as a more integrated system where freight, regional and metropolitan services would support each other and provide economies of scale. Where losses may have been made on passenger services, larger profits are found in the movement of freight, for example.

– Career progression was once closer tied to experience and years of service. This system ensured experienced and committed railway employees, naturally most qualified for supervisory or managerial roles, could further contribute their acquired skills and knowledge to improving operations. Under privatisation more and more managers have been hired with little or no railway experience which has contributed to a reduced level of industry and network specific skills in the workforce and reductions in worker morale.

Reflecting on the changes that have occurred and what may constitute public interest, attendees discussed a path forward. The main feature was to continue work in building the campaign community and building stronger links with other community groups that share common interests. Broadly acknowledged by the crowd was the scale of the campaign, the political resistance and the overarching control and power the current operators have over network information and influence within the government and its respective agencies.

No doubt there may be a long road to public justice but importantly the public discussion is underway as we continue to build on community campaign capacity. If you would like to know more about the forum or get more involved in the discussion call or text the RTBU Industrial, Campaigns and Research Officer Amedeo on 0488 305 088.

ACTING IN HIGHER AND WHAT IT MEANS FOR MEMBERS  

Darren Galea
Organiser

It has come to our attention that a number of members have been paid incorrectly. When acting in higher duties throughout the year, many were not being paid the correct rate for when they took their annual leave and were not being paid at the higher rate when taking public holiday credits which were accrued while acting in higher.

It was recently discovered in a working group at Metro that in excess of fifty members were not paid correctly for acting in higher. With the hard work and assistance of our Delegate and members, we were able to rectify the problem and ensure the members were paid their correct entitlement.

The Metro Trains Melbourne Rail Operations Enterprise Agreement 2015 – 2019 provides for Acting in Higher at clause 3.12. In regards to payment, the clause provides that not only must you be paid for acting in higher for the work you do, but that you must also be paid a portion of your Annual Leave at the higher rate if you qualify for it under clause 3.12.6. Further to this, if you accrue Public Holiday Credits when you work on a Public Holiday and take pay at the rate of time and a half, when you take the PH Credit when you return to your usual role, it should be paid at the higher rate at which you accrued it.

This is a great win for our members, and it shows that when we work together we are stronger.

DRUGS AND ALCOHOL – A CALL FOR SELF-TESTING

Bryan Evans
Organiser

Every single railway worker is aware that you need to be 0.0 whilst at work, it has been no secret. If there is a single thing that the RTBU and the company agrees on it is that no one should be at work whilst impaired by drugs or alcohol. It is a risk to yourself, your workmates and your employment.

Like any OHS hazard, it is risk assessed and in part managed by various testing regimes as prescribed by the rail safety act. There are typically 4 methods in which a member may be tested:

  • Upon commencement of employment or as prescribed by the category of medical required for your position.
  • A site wide random test, where members are often employed to choose who will and will not be tested.
  • A member is showing signs of impairment identified by somebody who is trained to do so.
  • After an incident in the workplace.

Unfortunately a large number of members who turn up positive tests, haven’t nicked off to the pub for lunch, but rather have had drinks the previous night and woke up with no reason to believe they were impaired by alcohol. If we can all agree that we do not want people affected by drugs and alcohol at work, why then do we not add the appropriate levels of control as we would any other safety risk.

If drug and alcohol testing is truly about minimising risk and all about safety, then surely adding another level of control in the form of discreet self-testing facilities at all rail workplaces would give our members the information required to make an educated decision and remove themselves from site before starting work and creating a risk for themselves and others.

Many companies in rail provide them, it’s time for others like Metro and V/Line to get on board.

In the meantime, if you are unsure if you are fit for duty, take sick leave, that is what it is there for, do not run the gauntlet.