As Melbourne swelters in the heat, I am reminded off the effects the heat has on our members. RTBU members deal with irritable, impatient, dehydrated customers and many are on barriers and platforms around the network, soaking in their own sweat.
Sometimes these staff are not given frequent enough breaks to rehydrate and simply get out of the heat for a few minutes. I think of Authorised Officers on trams without air conditioning, Barrier staff on barriers in the sun and weather, the list goes on.
I am aware that on those days. members really do earn every cent of their wage. I think of operational staff dealing with heat stressed and aging track and signalling equipment which plays up when it gets too hot, wet or cold in Melbourne. This results in delays to trains. This in turn backfires on the staff who are dealing with irate passengers who are missing connecting buses because the heat related speed restrictions for trains mean trains arrive late.
One of our recent wins was the installation of a standalone split unit air conditioner into number one signal box at Southern Cross. This has made work a whole lot less tiring for our members there.
The Union also has an agreement from Metro that no station staff are required to wear scarves or ties at all between 1 December and 28 February. Outside of this three-month summer period, (ie March to October), once the temperature reaches 27 degrees Celsius, there is no requirement for them to do so either. The union has distributed flyers to staff, but still members are asked by their supervisors to wear their ties and scarves. Metro has not communicated this agreement that they made with the union to staff which strikes me as unfair.
I want to remind everyone to take extra care of themselves and watch out for their colleagues during the heat waves. The first sign of dehydration is often a headache, so go ahead and reach for the Panadol if necessary, but make sure you take it with at LEAST 300 ml water. Additionally, heat stress can get people into dangerous situations in this industry, and heat stress contributes to fatigue.
Stay safe out there and stay cool.