TrackSAFE joins fight for Government focus on suicide

COMMENT: Coming off the back of the new reports released from the ABS indicating suicide as the leading cause of premature deaths in Australia, the TrackSAFE Foundation executive director Naomi Frauenfelder adds her voice to the growing number calling for governments to respond to the issue as a national crisis.

As a harm prevention charity, we at the TrackSAFE Foundation continuously work to reduce fatalities specifically on our rail network, while providing best practice trauma support for rail employees.

Annually there are around 150 fatalities resulting from rail suicide on our network. This has a profound and lasting impact on train drivers and other rail employees impacted as well as the greater community.

With new ABS statistics indicating the number of people taking their own lives has reached a decade-high in Australia, the rail industry is showing deep concern and believes federal government needs to give the issue its full attention. Both political parties are required to take action and demonstrate that this is an issue that the government takes seriously, as it affects everyone.

Too many Australians are dying premature deaths as a result of suicide. And on the other side of the coin, stigma is interfering with mental health care. I find myself lamenting the fact that despite centuries of learning about the brain, mental illness is still perceived as an indulgence and sign of weakness. How is it that talking to people and reaching out is embarrassing rather than critical?

When it comes to rail suicide, people don’t often think about that fact that this form of suicide is unique; it is one of the only methods that directly engages another person to undertake the actual act – the train driver.

The TrackSAFE Foundation was established by the rail industry, for the rail industry to address this serious issue and the affect these incidents have on rail employees.

The Australian rail industry takes a proactive approach to the emotional wellbeing of its 110,000 employees. Our nation’s rail organisations –be it freight and passenger operators, track owners, manufactures or suppliers– all take great care in creating a better workplace for rail employees. This culture within rail organisations comes from the top, as TrackSAFE’s Board of Directors consists of Chief Executives and senior rail personnel from across Australia’s rail operations.

Through the TrackSAFE Foundation, we partner with mental health organisations, (such as Lifeline, beyondblue, R U OK? and The Black Dog Institute) to provide rail organisations with the opportunities for staff to engage in conversations about their emotional status, as well as awareness of suicide.

Together we work to give rail staff the confidence and capacity to talk about life’s ups and downs and help them feel safe and supported whilst at work. Imagine if the same levels of concern from senior executives was duplicated across all Australian industries and professions.

It’s vital the nation responds to these alarming new suicide statistics and helps to stop deaths which are 100 per cent preventable. This effort involves everyone, we as a society need to take the time to learn about suicide, recognise the signs, identify if potential signs are around us at home or at work and help make sure that all Australians know that there is hope and ways to get and to give help.

* Readers seeking support and information about suicide prevention can contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467.

Rail worker manufacturing. Photo: / Courtesy of Bombardier

Unions the target of PM’s double dissolution threat

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has essentially presented the Senate with an ultimatum: pass laws to more strictly monitor the nation’s unions, or face a rare double dissolution election.

Turnbull made his move this week by having Governor-General Sir Peter Cosgrove recall parliament for a special three-week session, from April 18, and by setting a date of July 2 for a potential double dissolution, if they can’t work things out by then.

He also moved the federal budget forward from May 10 to May 3, clearing the way for the potential drama ahead.

A double dissolution of parliament would see the public vote on all 150 seats in the House of Representatives, and all 76 seats in the Senate. In a standard election, just half of the Senate is voted on, as Senators typically serve six-year terms.

The dramatic turn of events is all part of the prime minister’s efforts to pass through a pair of bills, both relating to the governance and monitoring of trade unions.

The first bill, rejected once by the Senate already, is to reinstate the Australian Building and Construction Commission, the trade union watchdog established by the Coalition in 2005, and abolished by Labor when it was in power in 2012.

The second bill, which has been rejected twice by the Senate, would create another government body, the Registered Organisations Commission, to provide the government greater investigation and information gathering powers over unions.

In an interview with ABC’s 7.30 host Leigh Sales on Monday, the prime minister made his position clear.

“Many if not most Australians are well aware of the level of lawlessness and corruption and waste in the construction industry,” Turnbull said.

“The Heydon Royal Commission set it out very graphically, if we had reason to doubt it.

“There [are] about a hundred officials of the CFMEU and members of the CFMEU facing court proceedings at the moment.

“There has been a degree of lawlessness in that construction sector that was identified by the Cole Royal Commission years ago.”

The findings of the Cole Royal Commission over a decade ago led to the Howard Government’s creation of the ABCC – a body Turnbull says reduced disputes and improved productivity in the sector by 20%.

“[When] the Labor Party [was] in government, [Bill] Shorten in fact as the minister, abolished the ABCC and what have we seen: industrial disputes rising,” Turnbull said, “lawlessness rising.”

The PM pointed to statistics showing 70% of Australia’s industrial disputes take place in the construction sector.

“Heydon was right and I believe we are right in saying there should be a special regulator,” he concluded.

Opposition leader Bill Shorten said Turnbull’s manoeuvre was simply an indication the prime minister was “in full panic mode”.

“We’re not afraid of a double dissolution election,” Shorten said.

“Australians are not afraid of a double dissolution election either, they just want people to get on with their interests rather than playing political gains.”

Maritime Union votes for merger. Photo: MUA

Merger on the cards for MUA, CFMEU

Maritime Union of Australia members have voted in favour of merger talks with the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union, in a move which is set to create a single, more influential union across a number of the nation’s largest blue collar sectors.

MUA national secretary Paddy Crumlin this week welcomed the vote, hailing Tuesday as a “historic day for the union”.

“This decision has the potential to transform the labour movement in Australia,” Crumlin said.

“This is the beginning of a great journey. We will go forward together as a genuine united front.”

Crumlin was adamant that union members did not stand to lose their distinctive culture through the move.

“A merger doesn’t mean [workers are] going to lose their identity,” he said in an interview with Channel 10. “What the merger means is they’re going to have more of a capability to fight back and protect their interests.”

Employers are concerned over the extensive reach the merged unions will now have, across and throughout the Australian economy.

“We’re concerned we’ll end up with double the militancy,” Master Builders Association boss Wilhelm Harnisch told 10. “These two militant unions can literally … lock up the nation.”

But CFMEU national secretary for construction Dave Noonan pointed out in  a statement that the unions have worked together in the past, on some of their biggest and most divisive issues.

“From 1998 [Patrick disputes] to the Hutchison dispute, from the anti-apartheid struggles, to Indonesian Independence, freedom for East Timor to the fight for land rights in our own country – these are the struggles that have defined our unions,” Noonan said.

CFMEU national secretary Michael O’Connor said the MUA’s vote was a “great result”.

“The resolution that was carried will be welcomed by the CFMEU when its executive meets later this week,” he said.

The CFMEU is also in merger talks with the Textile Clothing and Footwear Union, whose national secretary, Michele O’Neil, also addressed the conference of MUA workers who voted on Tuesday.

“We are a union with a lot of heart and a lot of street smarts,” O’Neil said, “we are able to use every possible tactic at our persuasion to win.”

Employment minister Michaelia Cash isn’t happy with the news.

Cash was quoted by Fairfax this week: “The fact that the two most militant unions in Australia are proposing to merge is extremely concerning.

“The potential merger of further unions to cover the majority of transport logistics across Australia should concern all Australians. This represents a major threat to productivity, jobs growth and economic prosperity.”

Parsons Brinkerhoff new hires. Photo: WSP|Parsons Brinkerhoff / WestNet Rail

Parsons Brinkerhoff adds to transport group

Engineering firm WSP|Parsons Brinkerhoff has recently added three senior leaders to its transport team.

The company said this week it has added Richard Boggon, Erica Adamson and Peter Letts in various leadership roles.

Boggon has re-joined the business as the general manager for Transport Services, while Adamson and Letts have been appointed as major project executives.

Recent work in the Australian transport sector by the engineer – which is known as WSP|Parsons Brinkerhoff after PB was acquired by WSP Global in 2014 – includes the rebuild of Glenfield Junction railway station and interchange in Sydney, and the Regional Rail Link project in Victoria.

WSP|Parsons  Brinkerhoff director of Transport Charlie Jewkes said Boggon would lead Transport’s operations and capability across Australia and New Zealand, while Letts and Adamson would provide leadership and guidance to major strategic bids and projects across the region.

“Erica, Peter and Richard have significant industry and key client experience which they bring most recently from Transport for NSW, NSW Roads and Maritime Services and from Ventia [respectively],” Jewkes explained.

“With our industry poised to pick up pace in 2016, WSP|Parsons Brinkerhoff has secured new leadership talent to support its ambitions to grow the company and strengthen its client offering.

“These individuals will provide key industry intelligence and support the planning and delivery of major projects across the ANZ transport market.”

The new hires will be based in the company’s Sydney office.

Still from 'The Driver'. Photo: Tim Russell

Aussie film highlights impact of fatalities on train drivers

A short film from Australian filmmaker Tim Russell aims to highlight the hidden victims of railway fatalities: train drivers.

‘The Driver’, which will premier this weekend at the Flickerfest International Film Festival, is a seven-minute short about a driver who returns to work after time off from encountering a rail fatality.

“Most train drivers will experience a fatality in their careers,” Russell says. “It’s not a case of if, it’s a case of when.”

According to TrackSAFE figures, there are more than 4000 near hits and collisions across Australia every year resulting from railway trespass incidents, and an estimated 150 suicide deaths.

“The driver is powerless to prevent the incident and forced to watch the horror unfold in front of them,” Russell explains.

Gary Tower is a retired driver who experienced rail fatalities during his forty-year career.

“It’s a harrowing experience that you never forget,” Tower says. “Some drivers aren’t able to return to work. If creating a film like this can raise awareness and save just one life, then it’s been worth it.”

Russell, who wrote and directed ‘The Driver’, spent time with train drivers in suburban Sydney during his research for the film.

“What really struck me was their camaraderie and the support they gave each other in a time of need,” he says. “The drivers are usually forgotten and I hope the film can shine a light on their lives.”

‘The Driver’ was developed as part of Metro Screen’s Breaks Program, and also received funding from Screen NSW. A trailer for the film can be viewed here.

The film will premier during a selection of Australian short films, at 8.45pm in the outdoor amphitheatre at Sydney’s Bondi Beach. Click here for more information.

Metro Trains Comeng EMU. Photo: Zed Fitzhume / Creative Commons

Metro used safety to selectively sack five, union claims

The Rail Tram & Bus Union claims Melbourne operator Metro Trains has sacked five of its members over an alleged safety concern which the union says was a systemic issue which should have been addressed by Metro long ago.

RTBU state secretary Luba Grigorovitch on Monday said a group of five workers had been sacked, two of whom were leading delegates in the union.

“Together these men hold almost 100 years of track safety experience,” Grigorovitch said.

“Today’s heavy handed decision by Metro to terminate a group of track maintenance workers, four days before Christmas, fails to address systemic safety issues in the industry.”

The union claims the workers were dismissed for alleged safety breaches, despite the fact that their actions were part of longstanding work practices, which the union says Metro has “failed to take seriously since taking control of the operation”.

“Failing to take localised action to improve safety and offer the training necessary to rectify these systemic issues, Metro management has negligently maintained the status quo, only now exploiting the issue to selectively eliminate this work group while others escape unscathed,” Grigorovitch claimed.

“If management are serious about improving safety and changing culture, not changing personnel, we need to see the promotion and education of safe work practices amongst and for workers.

“But the truth is, there has been little effort made by management to change and enforce these longstanding practices.”

Grigorovitch accused the passenger operator of unfairly treating workers, poorly applying policies, “sham contracting”, and short-changing the public on an “ongoing” basis.

“This year the RTBU has contacted Metro about safety on many occasions but little has been actioned by the company to deliver critical changes,” she claimed.

“Metro must do more to ensure proper processes, education, and training are delivered to workers in order to address safety issues in the network’s infrastructure maintenance department.”

Christmas reading: Rail Express AusRAIL edition

In case you missed it, Rail Express published a digital edition of its AusRAIL magazine in November. You can read the magazine, which includes features, interviews, analysis and comment covering the Australian and New Zealand rail industry, in digital format on our website.

The 92-page magazine can be viewed in digital format by clicking here.

Instructions: simply use your mouse to drag the pages just like you were reading a magazine. Alternatively, you can use the left and right arrows on your keyboard. To zoom in on a page, use the magnifying glass icon on the bottom left menu.

We hope that you enjoy the magazine. If you have any feedback, please feel free to email our editor:

For more information about advertising in Rail Express, please click here.

Marika Calfas, chief executive officer of NSW Ports. Photo: NSW Ports

NSW Ports appoints new CEO

After several months as the organisation’s interim chief, Marika Calfas has been formally announced as the CEO of NSW Ports.

NSW Ports, which owns and operates Port Botany and Port Kembla, announced the appointment on December 21.

“The board is delighted to appoint Marika to the position of chief executive officer,” NSW Ports chairman Paul McClintock said.

“Marika has demonstrated that she possesses the experience, qualities and capabilities required to successfully lead the business. We look forward to working with her to deliver on the organisation’s objectives.”

After a global executive search, McClintock said the board decided the best candidate was the one right in front of it.

“Marika has impressed the board during her period as interim CEO,” he said. “Marika has a comprehensive knowledge of the business having been a part of the NSW Ports executive team since 2013, and came to NSW Ports with 12 years’ experience at Sydney Ports Corporation.”

Prior to her work at Sydney Ports, Calfas worked at Sinclair Knight Merz.

“I am passionate about NSW’s port gateways and freight supply chains, and the vital role they play in supporting business and consumer needs,” Calfas said.

“Ensuring they continue to grow and operate efficiently and sustainably is essential. In my capacity as CEO, I look forward to continuing to engage with our many stakeholders and working with my colleagues at NSW Ports to deliver these strategic outcomes.”

Michael Kilgariff, chief executive of the Australian Logistics Council – which recently added Calfas to its board – praised the move by NSW Ports.

“Marika brings a wealth of high level experience to the position,” Kilgariff said.

“Her deep understanding of the long-term challenges and opportunities facing NSW Ports make her the ideal choice to lead the organisation through the next phase of its growth.”

Kilgariff stressed the importance of a number of freight initiatives concerning NSW Ports which are in their planning phases.

“These include an agreement between NSW Ports and Aurizon regarding the future of the Enfield Intermodal Logistics Centre; Asciano’s new intermodal strategy incorporating an intermodal site at St Mary’s and DP World’s and Toll’s proposed Villawood joint venture.

“They also include the Moorebank Intermodal Terminal in Western Sydney, to be operated by the SIMTA consortium (consisting of Qube and Aurizon), which is making significant progress,” he added.

“With NSW’s freight task set to nearly double by 2031, the logistics industry needs visionary and strategic leaders with a solid understanding of what’s required to meet this growth; and NSW Ports have this in Marika Calfas.”

Coal wagons Aurizon. Photo: Aurizon

Changes at top for Aurizon

Queensland-based freight operator Aurizon has announced head of operations Mike Franczak will leave the company in March 2016 “by mutual agreement”.

Franczak joined Aurizon in 2013 after a long career in Canada.

“As we indicated at the time, we brought Mike in to bring our operating metrics in line with the North American Class 1 Railways,” chief executive Lance Hockridge said on Wednesday.

“He has delivered and has played a role in the ongoing success of our operational transformation.

“Our key operating metrics have improved and are trending towards and in some cases exceeding the performance of the Class 1 Railways.

“I would like to thank Mike for the work he has done.  His experience has been invaluable in helping the team achieve many of the performance targets we set our company in recent years.”

Michael Carter will be appointed as acting head of operations from January 1, while Franczak will be available to assist with the transition before his departure in March.

Vice president of business development David Welch will act in the role of executive vice president strategy and business development for Carter during this time.

Hockridge said a global recruitment process would be undertaken to fill the role permanently however the bench strength of the Aurizon team was strong and there was a number of outstanding internal candidates.

“Michael [Carter] is currently the executive vice president strategy and business development and has broad experience in leadership roles over a long career in the rail industry, including freight, passenger and heavy haul rail operations.

“We have set very clear targets to the market in terms of cost outs and performance improvements.

“I will also be working closely with the teams to ensure a seamless transition and help our highly experienced and capable leadership team in Operations deliver on our targets and our next phase of reform and growth.”

ARTC hiring women in Hunter. Photo: Youtube / ARTC

Logistics needs to rectify gender gap

Transport and logistics industry operators have been challenged to increase gender diversity within their ranks in order to improve financial outcomes.

The topic was the central theme of the Australian Logistics Council’s Diversity and Inclusion Summit which was held at the Pullman Hotel in Melbourne and featured several key speakers from businesses within Australia.

Toll Holdings non-executive director Nicola Wakefield Evans said there was a need for conversation about gender diversity within the logistics industry noting the strong economic benefits of doing so.

“Fortunately and unfortunately, the statistics for the transport and logistics industry are woeful but compelling for change.”

She noted logistics as a pillar of the Australian economic and also one of the fastest growing.

Moreover with overall workplace participation dropping, women were an obvious source of skilled labour.

Wakefield also talked of the value of direct action and the experience of the property sector.

“You actually need to put direct policies in place to bring women into, particularly the frontline jobs….”

The session was chaired by Asciano director human resources Alex Badenoch who opened the Summit noting recent comments by the new Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau who, when asked why half his cabinet was female, said “it’s 2015”.

“It’s really our first step to making our industry more diverse,” Badenoch told the Summit.

This article originally featured in Rail Express affiliate Lloyd’s List Australia.