The RTBU has been working to future-proof enterprise agreements in its Victorian Branch Workshops and Infrastructure Divisions to achieve what members want now and shape the industry in the future.
With the division dealing with about 50 enterprise agreements, Organiser Bryan Evans said strategic bargaining with a long-term view was essential during planning and negotiations.
“EAs are not just about higher wages,” Bryan said. “They are about conditions, skills, hours of work, job security, technology, absolutely everything that shapes our industry.
“As an industry union we have the luxury of having an overview of where the industry is heading, what looms on the horizon, what business is up to, and planning our agreements accordingly to achieve our long-term aims.
“This means identifying what needs improving and changing and, more importantly, when.”
Bryan said EA bargaining was not only about protecting existing conditions but also about what members wanted the industry to look like in the future.
“In the context of an industry in the midst of dynamic and rapid transformation, taking these opportunities is critical to the future success of the union and its members.”
The EA process was complex and faced issues including:
- Dealing with other unions whose goals were not dependent on the rail industry’s success.
- The manufacturing of new fleets, the retirement of old ones, and how that was shaped by government contracts.
- The construction and upgrade of new assets, how that was shaped by contracts, and who was likely to bid for the work.
- How new technology implemented through these changes affected members, what skills were required and why, and who else may enter the industry off the back of those changes.
“The key is to make sure our members benefit from these changes,” Bryan said.
“Because if it’s left up to the bosses, you can be certain the cheapest options possible will be pursued, with little concern about the long-term impact on rail workers.”
Recent EA campaigns have looked to cut work hours without loss of pay to achieve a better work-life balance, combat automation’s worst consequences, and avoid future job losses.
Bryan said that in the workshops space, the RTBU had recently achieved a 36-hour week at sites including Gemco, Alstom and Downer EDI Newport.
Those sites covered the gamut of rolling stock work, including maintenance, Tier 1 work, and manufacturing.
Bryan said the Downer EDI campaign had not been easy, and had involved a range of industrial action and pickets.
But buoyed by success there, the RTBU was now pursuing 36-hour week deals at Alstom’s Ballarat workshops, which is assembling the new X’Trapolis 2.0 fleet, and Newport BAU.
Other wins included recognition of new classifications and progression structures at MTM that ensures the future of work for members.
The union has been working hard to manage the retirement of the Comeng fleet, without forced redundancies, by being proactive and incorporating clauses into EAs years ahead of when they will be needed.
The RTBU has also made headway in infrastructure, effectively rolling out a 36-hour week with employers including John Holland, LORA, McConnell Dowell, Coleman Rail, Downer, and V/Line.
Bryan said the union had also, for the first time, been able to have rail construction classifications incorporated into infrastructure EAs.
“These will ensure the skills needed in the future are incorporated into our classification structures now.”