Over the last few weeks V/Line has been pushing for drastic changes via amendments to the V/Line Rail Operations Enterprise Agreement 2015–2019. We are deeply concerned about the proposal. Firstly because of the changes proposed to the EA, but also because of the approach taken by V/Line.
V/Line has proposed 7 variations that will remove approximately 3 pages worth of enforceable conditions, as well as changes to other clauses. Once these conditions are removed, V/Line can implement programs they feel benefit business operations. We believe the changes are very likely to result in de-skilling drivers’ classifications, but they will impact other employees too.
The approach taken by V/Line has been an extraordinarily hostile one. The first we heard about it was through a letter that the V/Line CEO Mr Pinder wrote to the RTBU over the Christmas/ New Year period. Mr Pinder advised us that they were seeking changes to the EA and notified us that the voting period will be in early February 2018. We received no information, other than the variations sought to specified clauses.
On meeting with V/Line, we were again given very little information. Instead we were literally asked to encourage members to vote in favour of the proposal and to take a “leap of faith” and to trust V/Line management.
The proposal is extraordinarily odd, especially given there was no prior consultation and also given there is less than a year before we are due to commence bargaining for a new agreement.
V/Line talks about increasing the skills set of employees. However, we suspect that the implications will be negative for all classifications. For example, shunters and conductors may be expected to take on intermittent driving duties during usual down time without extra pay. Ultimately, employees who are not able to drive trains may be viewed in the future as “not flexible” and therefore may be forced out of their job.
The reality is that we have no reason to trust V/Line. V/Line could have approached us openly and in good faith rather than seeking to ram through changes without any genuine consultation.
More broadly, this approach calls into question the strength of our bargaining system. A key aspect of our system is our ability to secure legally enforceable conditions in an Enterprise Agreement. We use our industrial strength and our ability to take protected industrial action to secure fair and enforceable conditions. V/Line is attempting to sidestep the threat of protected industrial action and good faith bargaining requirements to delete elements of the agreement that they don’t like.
This technique can be employed by any company who has bargained for an Enterprise Agreement and then decides that they don’t like the conditions they are legally bound by.
Unfortunately, V/Line only needs to secure a yes vote from half of those employees who participate in the vote. This means that if only 10 people participate in the vote, V/Line needs only 6 people to vote yes.
They can do this, it is frighteningly legal. But we can vote NO. So I urge V/Line employees to exercise your vote and I encourage you to vote NO.
These changes aim to divide us, to pit union members against each other according to our jobs. However, despite our differences we are one union and while we stand together we cannot be defeated!
Together we can and will win.