Queensland Rail passenger train - photo QLD Matt

High Court sides with workers in Queensland fracas

The Rail, Tram & Bus Union will push for a pay rise for Queensland Rail workers after unions on Wednesday won a High Court challenge against industrial relations changes made by the former Newman Government.

A number of unions representing Queensland Rail employees brought their case to the High Court after, in 2013, the Newman Government transferred QR employees to the Queensland industrial relations system – moving them out of the federal system.

The move, according to unions, resulted in the “theft of many conditions,” according to RTBU Queensland state secretary Owen Doogan.

“The case boiled down to whether the Newman Government had the right to simply pass laws bringing QR back under its own lousy workplace laws.

“The High Court said that they did not have that right.”

The judgement, which is thought to impact about 6,000 workers, effectively removes restrictions which limited their ability, and the ability of unions, to take industrial action in response to their employer’s actions.

Electrical Trades Union national secretary Allen Hicks believes the decision could impact industrial relations in other states, telling the Australian Financial Review that the High Court had delivered “a clear warning to conservative governments that there are rules and limits, and the union movement will fight tooth and nail to defend workers’ rights”.

“The Newman government, which was spectacularly dumped by voters earlier this year, had attempted to strip entitlements from employees at this government-owned business by moving them to a ‘statutory authority’, which they claimed was outside the coverage of the Fair Work Act,” he was quoted as saying.

“What the High Court has confirmed is that if a ‘statutory authority’ looks and acts like a company, then it is, in fact, a company, and the Fair Work Act applies.”

Unions have resolved to work with Queensland Rail to reach a new deal.

“The unions will now be seeking to negotiate agreements in the federal arena to replace the agreements which have expired over the last few years in the federal system,” RTBU state secretary Doogan said.

“[On Wednesday] I received a commitment form the QR CEO that there would be no reduction in conditions for QR workers as a result of the High Court decision and that discussions will now commence to address the issues flowing from this agreement.”

Pacific National - Credit Asciano

Asciano weighs in on workplace relations

Asciano has voiced support for the Fair Work Amendment (Bargaining Processes) Bill 2014 that would mandate that productivity improvement discussions take place during enterprise bargaining agreements.

The parent company of Pacific National said industrial action is a somewhat Marxist approach to the relationship between employers and employees, in its recently published submission to the Productivity Commission’s Workplace Inquiry.

But Asciano accepted the notion that disputes are a bargaining tool that may reduce power imbalances between parties.

“Asciano recognises that the efficiency and quality of enterprise agreement negotiations to a large extent is in the hands of the parties negotiating agreements,” the company said.

“[But] there are aspects of the bargaining framework as set out in the Fair Work Act which hamper efficient and equitable negotiations.”

The company said it believes legislating productivity gains in enterprise bargaining should be approached with caution. However, the processes in place need to ensure genuine agreement is reached.

That said, Asciano voiced support for the requirement that the Fair Work Commission, when approving enterprise agreements, be satisfied productivity improvements were discussed during bargaining.

Complexities arising from negotiating process − as flagged by Asciano – include multiple stakeholders. Negotiators may have to manage multiple and potentially competing interests; trade-offs (e.g. between rostering, wage increases and other flexibilities); and maintenance of constructive relationships between parties.

Asciano suggests the Fair Work Commission give greater consideration to supporting negotiations beyond an approval and dispute resolution role.

The Productivity Commission is currently carrying out an inquiry into the industrial relations laws.

Initial submissions were due by March 13; however details of submission have only recently been published by the Productivity Commission.

A draft report is due in July.

Lloyd’s List Australia

First of ARA’s national training courses launched

The Australasian Railway Association (ARA) has launched the National Track Safety Induction (NTSI) courseware, as its first step towards nationally consistent training in the rail industry.

Launched last night at the RISSB Rail Safety Conference in Melbourne, the NTSI courseware is the result of industry collaboration towards a national approach for training.

The courseware is focused on training workers to operate safely within the rail corridor, with common course materials across Australian jurisdictions.

A national approach for this training will create efficiencies, through reduction in the retraining for workers operating across different networks and states, potentially saving millions, the ARA said.

“This harmonisation will create a safer, more productive and cost effective approach to learning and development activities in the rail industry,” ARA chief executive Bryan Nye said.

Nye estimates the development of one common course will save individual organisations around $80,000 on average, and said in the long term, common courseware for all rail-specific training can save the industry more than $39 million.

“With movement in the industry over the last ten years towards a national rail system, it is increasingly common for rail maintenance owners, operators, suppliers and contractors to work across multiple jurisdictions,” Nye said, “creating unnecessary inefficiencies and impacting on productivity.”

The NTSI courseware covers the core competency requirements of level 1 track safety awareness that. The ARA says the material is designed to meet the needs of multiple networks across Australia.

“A great deal of work has been completed to reach this point thanks to the dedication and commitment demonstrated by representatives from 14 accredited rail operators and infrastructure managers who worked in partnership on this initiative,” Nye said.

“However it is only the start of the journey,” he concluded.

“Maintaining this consistency and ensuring the quality of training delivery for the NTSI is a high priority for ARA and its members.”

Katharina Gerstmann

Rail ‘male dominated, but not anti-female’

In the lead-up to International Women’s Day this past Sunday, RTSA executive chair and Beca manager for transport, Katharina Gerstmann, spoke about women in the rail industry.

Gerstmann, who wrote in a release by Engineers Australia in February, said that while rail has been historically male dominated, times are changing.

“Women are making an enormous contribution to all areas of rail, with more and more women taking on roles across the industry,” Gerstmann said, “from train drivers to engineers through to management positions.

“Both women and men seem to come to the industry by accident, but stay out of passion.”

Gerstmann explained that getting more women to fulfil lengthy careers in rail was a question of attracting more women at all levels, and retaining them by having a structure in place that enables them to fulfil their potential.

“The industry might be male dominated but that’s not because it is anti-female,” she said. “It is because of the perception we have given women; and one of the biggest challenges in attracting women lies in overcoming this perception.”

Gerstmann outlined three core issues which should be tackled by the industry to help achieve a gender balance.

“The first is the lack of a platform where women can network with like-minded colleagues, make new friends and discuss current issues – something that groups on social networks like LinkedIn and Facebook have now started to address,” she said.

“The second issue is around helping and guiding women in the industry to be able to progress their careers and realise their full potential.

“And finally we need to help ensure that more females join the industry at entry level by raising awareness of the benefits of working in it.”

Gerstmann said good work was being done in rail to help workers advance both their career and their family life, and that this is good business.

“Most organisations in the Australian rail industry can now see the business case, and that women in rail initiatives are not about some sort of feminist crusade, or a fluffy ‘all women together’ thing,” she said.

“They start to understand that there is something in it for them as well, which is the economic benefit of diversity. As soon as you have a diverse workforce you have a productivity increase.

“Women in rail are not here to take over but we want to increase our percentage,” Gerstmann concluded.

“There are a lot of initiatives going on in the industry, especially trying to stimulate youngsters to have a career in rail, and it’s about us all working together rather than in isolation.”

Berejiklian boosting fare evasion squad by 35%

NSW minister for transport Gladys Berejiklian has announced plans to expand the state’s squad of transport officers to more than 200, in an effort to crack down on fare evasion.

Recruitment has begun for 65 new transport officers, set to add to the 150 officers who already work alongside Police Transport Command to target fare evasion on public transport, Berejiklian said last week.

Officers checking tickets on trains, buses, ferries and light rail have issued more than 111,000 fines since May 2013.

“Our existing 150 Transport Officers are issuing the same amount of fines as Labor’s whole squad of old RailCorp transit officers,” Berejiklian said.

“Transport Officers work closely with the Police Transport Command, who in addition have issued more than 100,000 infringements on the transport network for offences including fare evasion.

“Fare evasion costs taxpayers millions of dollars a year, and while the majority of customers do the right thing, it’s frustrating when others don’t pay their way. It also means less money to spend on extra transport services and new infrastructure,” Berejiklian said.

The boost in numbers means transport officers will be able target Sydney hot spots and outer suburban areas, including Wollongong, the Blue Mountains and the Central Coast, the minister added.

“Transport officers are now equipped with a handheld smart device which automatically sends infringement notices in the post, meaning less time on administration and more time helping customers and reducing fare evasion,” she said.

“Transport officers also use hand-held Opal readers to scan customers’ Opal cards and ensure people have tapped on correctly – another important way we’re tackling fare evasion.”

Transport for NSW has also introduced an initiative to turn off concession sales at ticket machines at selected stations, ensuring customers need to show proof of entitlement.

“Since the move, concession sales have dropped by 10% and full price tickets increased by the same amount, meaning 4 million extra full price tickets will be purchased this year,” Berejiklian said.

“We are sending a strong message to those who might normally travel without tapping on with their Opal card, or carrying the right ticket or concession, that the days of getting away with fare evasion are over.”

Training for the additional transport officers will start in January and the first of the new officers will be on the job by April 2015.

NSW police take charge of security on Sydney transport

The New South Wales Government has announced that the state’s police force will take over security for Sydney’s entire public transport network under a new dedicated Police Transport Command.

The new Police Transport Command (PTC) will see 610 dedicated police officers allocated to patrol trains, buses and ferries.

Police commissioner Andrew Scipione said the new police command will be created to bolster the state’s public transport network.

“The creation of the PTC will allow police to work more closely with the community to target those areas within our transport system where anti-social and criminal behaviour occurs,” Commissioner Scipione said.

Minister for police Michael Gallacher said the police will be trained to patrol in pairs, rather than transit officers who are routinely deployed in groups of three to five for safety reasons. Transit officers will focus on detecting fare evasion and minor compliance offences and their patrols will be expanded to cover buses and ferries.

“Improving safety and security requires a fundamentally different approach, and a well-led dedicated police command with the full complement of police powers will increase our ability to combat crime on the public transport network,” Gallacher said.

“The NSW Liberals & Nationals Government is determined to give police the powers, the resources and the backing they need to keep our community safe, and that includes protecting public transport passengers.”

Minister for transport Gladys Berejiklian said commuters wanted a strong police presence on the transport network as it was the best deterrent against crime.

“We are committed to making our public transport network as safe as possible,” Berejiklian said.

“We understand that feeling safe and secure is important to our customers, and that it is crucial to attracting more people to use public transport.

“Just as a police car on our roads puts drivers on their best behaviour, police officers patrolling our public transport network will serve as a deterrent against crime.

“While police will take the lead, transit officers will have their roles expanded to focus on fare evasion on buses and ferries as well as trains.”

Commissioner Scipione said recruitment processes would be completed by the end of 2014 when the PTC’s ranks will have grown to more than 600 officers, while 300 existing police officers currently attached to the Commuter Crime Unit will be available immediately.

“The great value of this new command is that police officers will come into contact with people who may have committed other more serious crimes,” he said

“It will enable the police to take into custody a lot of people wanted on other offences.

“Public transport, whether it’s rail, buses or ferries, are well-known as crime corridors used by criminals to go to commit a crime or to return from a crime.”’

The government’s increased police presence will build on existing security measures across Sydney’s rail network that include:

  • 9300 CCTV cameras targeting crime and commuters safety
  • 750 customer help points visible on CCTV which allow a person to communicate directly with CityRail staff
  • 7000 high intensity lights

Report pinpoints rail’s skills shortages

The industry’s chronic skills and labour shortages show no signs of abating with a number of occupations predicted to be in skill demand throughout 2012, according to a discussion paper released by the Transport and Logistics Skills Council (TLISC) that details key findings from its upcoming 2012 Environmental Scan.

According to TLISC’s discussion paper, the occupations across Australia’s rail industry that will be in skill demand in 2012 will be:

  • Train Drivers
  • Signalling technicians
  • Railway track workers
  • Team leader infrastructures
  • Track patrollers/inspectors
  • Rail trainers/assessors
  • Guards/conductors
  • Overhead wiring technicians
  • Civil specialists

The barriers to overcoming rail’s skills and labour shortages as identified by the discussion paper are:

  • Loss of experienced and skilled workers due to competition from the resources sector
  • Increased demand for employment due to new rail projects coming on line
  • Ageing workforce
  • Electrification of rail impacting on skill requirements
  • Complex legislative and regulatory frameworks

TLISC general manager, strategy and policy, Amanda Thomas, emphasised that workforce ageing will continue to be a significant barrier to maintaining an appropriately skilled workforce within the rail sector.

On a positive note, the discussion paper also identified solutions to the rail industry’s skills and labour shortages as well as potential sources of labour, including:

  • Employment of workers from non-traditional sources of the labour market – including part-time and recent migrants who possess transferable skills
  •  Utilisation of the rural and remote labour force
  • Promoting the rail sector as a career path at school and community levels
  • Increasing training as a recruitment and retention tool
  • Expanding the numbers of trainers and assessors to provide flow-on impacts at the business level.

TLISC released the discussion paper to provide stakeholders with the key findings from the 2012 Environmental Scan (E-Scan) industry consultation process prior to publication of the E-Scan in February.

The 2012 E-Scan process highlights the challenges and opportunities impacting Australia’s entire transport and logistics industry, as well as detailing key findings relating to skills and labour shortages in the Logistics Management, Road Transport and Warehousing; Aviation; Maritime; Rail and Ports sectors.

Interested stakeholders are invited to provide comment on any of the findings Monday 30th January 2012.
Email: Leanne.Mundy@tlisc.org.au

For further information contact:
Amanda Thomas
Email: amanda.thomas@tlisc.org.au
Phone: (02) 6163 7227

Leanne Mundy
Email: leanne.mundy@tlisc.org.au
Phone: (02) 6163 7209

TLISC’s E-Scan will be available for download as of February at: www.tlisc.com.au

Rail turnout - RISSB

TLISC: helping tackle rail’s skills shortages

The Transport Industry Skills Council (TLISC) provides advice to industry on workforce planning initiatives, training package development and the vocational education training system. Rail Express spoke with TLISC CEO Robert Adams.

REX: Robert, you are the new CEO at TLISC, how have you found your first few months?

Adams: Well, I have come on board at a very busy period. Luckily I had been involved with the Skills Council for the last 11 years as a member of the board, and as such am no stranger to the organisation.

The fact that I am not new to the sector has been of great advantage. Previously I worked as a management consultant in the rail industry and for the last 11 years I was with one of the largest road transport companies in Australia, TNT.

REX: Australian rail’s chronic skills shortages have been talked about a lot in recent times. What is your take on this issue?

Adams: I think that one of the key emerging issues is that the industry currently faces a lot of competition for skilled workers. If we look to the two speed economy, a lot of the skills that are in the transport and logistics area are transferable to other sectors. As a result in rail we see significant competition from the mining and resources area for our workers.

The challenge is to improve the skill development process and work with rail companies to  construct and implement retention strategies. This will ensure that we have the workforce available to support the freight needs of Australia.

There is also a real need to broaden recruitment by attracting new segments to the rail labour market.

REX: Can TLISC help rail organisations to broaden their recruitment and retention strategies?

Adams: There are a number of ways that we can help rail organisations train and retain staff. One way is through the enhancement of the Training Packages that form the qualifications. Making sure that qualifications match actual job roles means that workers have the right skills to do the jobs at hand.

The other way TLISC is helping is by working nationally with the rail industry to develop the workforce planning agenda. This will support the industry to develop the workforce that will be required, both now and in the near future.

REX: Are many rail organisations using the services that TLISC offer for workforce planning?

Adams: Yes, there are a number of rail companies making the most of current funding opportunities. Recently two companies were successful, with assistance from TLISC, in getting their submissions up for the Federal Government’s Critical Skills Investment Fund.

REX: What is currently happening with TLISC’s rail Training Package development?

Adams: There is a lot of work currently being undertaken in the rail sections of the TLI10 Training Package. This work is aimed at driving the national agenda around updating the rail qualifications.

We have taken a very consultative and inclusive approach to try and make certain that we get the right industry input and the technical advice. This will ensure that we deliver qualifications and skill sets that will meet the needs of the rail industry.

REX: I hear there may be a Diploma level qualification soon. Is this true?

Adams: Yes, we are looking at developing a diploma level qualification that will provide a pathway from the Certificate IV level into higher level job roles. This diploma could provide an entry into the rail industry for people coming from other areas such as project management or even engineering. This will allow professionals to join the rail industry at a higher level.

We are looking at developing a rail infrastructure diploma first, with the aim that it will be available to industry by 2013. There has also been similar interest expressed for a rail operations diploma.

REX: How are the new Rail Operations qualifications progressing?

Adams: Our rail specialist, Rae Fossard, is currently working with industry on developing a variety of new qualifications, for example, electric passenger train driving for metropolitan services, heavy haul driving (both freight and passenger) and yard operations. Over the next year work will broaden and include areas such as station operations.

REX: One of TLISC’s key tasks is to gather industry intelligence and provide analysis. How does this work?

Adams: As part of our contractual arrangements with the Australian Government we conduct analysis of T&L industry and enterprise skill needs. It is undertaken over a short time period each year and relies on ‘real time’ evidence captured across industry.

The result of this extensive engagement with the sector is a detailed document called the T&L Industry Environmental Scan. It is designed to advise enterprise and government on key challenges and projected skill needs with the transport and logistics area.

REX: What is the Environmental Scan data and analysis used for?

Adams: The government uses the Environmental Scan information, along with other intelligence, when creating policy and making funding decisions. For example, if we identify specific economic challenges it can assist the government in developing strategies and policies to address those needs.

The scan also provides an up-to-date overview of the levels of participation in funded training activities and highlights potential opportunities for further investment in skills development.

Industry and training organisations also use the analysis to gain an overview of the current T&L environment. It can assist them with their planning and decision making for subsequent years.

We would welcome the input from the rail sector as we undertake the intelligence gathering process between now and the end of the year. Please visit our website (www.tlisc.com.au) to find out more.

The resulting Environmental Scan will be published next February.

REX: When gathering information about the sector do you only get input from enterprise?

Adams: No, we cast a very wide net. We try to get a diverse range of people and organisations that are involved in various activities in the sector. This means that we are talking to enterprises, unions, associations and institutions that have vested interests in this area. It is a very comprehensive process that we undertake and we are always looking to increase the number of organisations and people that are interested in providing feedback.

REX: Are there new developments on the horizon at TLISC?

Adams: TLISC has just gone through an in-depth strategic planning process and is now looking forward to continuing its important work in four key areas. These are:

  • High quality development and continuous improvement of training products and value-add services to support excellence in training delivery and assessment across the tertiary sector.
  • Contemporary, high quality analysis and intelligence on the profile and skills needs of the current and future transport and logistics workforce.
  • Increasing enterprise productivity through contemporary skills and workforce development practices.
  • Repositioning transport and logistics as an attractive, valued and rewarding place to work.

For more information on the work being undertaken by the Transport and Logistics Industry Skills Council visit: www.tlisc.com.au

New websites target industry skills dilemma

Industry has gone online to combat rail’s critical skills shortages and recently held interactive workshops to launch two new workforce development websites.

The Skilled Migration Kit and Portfolio of Best Practice Attraction and Image Strategies were developed by the CRC in conjunction with the Australasian Railway Association (ARA) and member companies to provide industry with practical strategies, information and solutions in its recruitment process.

While rail in Australia currently employs in excess of 100,000 staff, industry is facing major workforce challenges including a global skills shortage in trades and engineering; an ageing workforce, with 40% of staff leaving in the next five years; and education trends, with younger workers less likely to take on blue collar roles and rail not being seen as an employer of choice – or not considered at all.

At the same time, demand for rail is on the increase as a result of significant rail infrastructure investment; increased demand in passenger and freight services; technological advances; development in the resources sector; and increased customer expectations including customer service standards and reliability.

Alarmingly, growth in the Industry means that rail needs to attract around 7300 workers over the next five years across the fields of operations, trades and engineering to meet the increased demand for rail.

At the same time, rail needs to compete for these staff with the mining, electricity, water, gas and construction industries who face the same challenges.

“These two projects are the culmination of cutting-edge, industry-driven research projects facilitated by the CRC,” CRC chief executive David George said.

“Both projects will improve the rail industry’s ability to attract and retain domestic and international project managers, technical workers and engineers to ensure that rail can compete with other industries to secure enough skilled workers to replace its retiring workforce.”

The Portfolio of Best Practice Attraction and Image Strategies provides examples of branding and attraction strategies based on research with students, teachers, careers advisors, recruiters, marketers and HR practitioners that can be adopted by rail.

The website includes quizzes designed to have the viewer consider their own perceptions about rail careers, information from marketeers and examples from industry where rail careers are portrayed strongly. It also includes examples from other industries and national approaches to improving image issues, branding, national initiatives in schools and universities and being an employer of choice.

The Skilled Migration Information Kit provides industry with key information for recruiting skilled migrants from both offshore and onshore.

The kit enables practitioners, such as human resources managers and operations managers, to be well-informed about the practical requirements and realities of recruiting migrants through Australia’s skilled migration visa options. It cover issues such as the decision to recruit, costs and return on investment, marketing tools, relocation and settlement to assist in addressing the skills shortages the industry faces.

The kit has links to documents, videos, animations, You Tube clips of recruitment campaigns and websites that have been selected as good practice exemplars to act as a starting point for the rail industry in skilled migrant recruitment.

“The three interactive launches provided useful workshops for Industry HR managers, workforce planners, marketers, branding managers and line managers to come together, share the recruitment challenges they face and discuss practical methods to ensure rail can combat the skilled shortages issue and come out ahead,” George said.

The websites can both be found at www.ara.net.au under the HR and Training tab.

Rail Careers conference: don’t miss out!

With the GFC seemingly behind us, and with the rail industry hardly feeling a bump, it continues to look for solutions to mitigate the effects of the skills shortages that are currently and increasingly upon us.

None of the old issues like infrastructure investment, technological change and competition from the resources sector have gone away, in fact with the government continuing to stimulate the economy and the resources boom bouncing back faster than it fell, the demand for skilled workers is under more pressure than before.
The Australasian Railway Association (ARA) continues to press the point that individual organisations cannot solve the challenges by themselves or with individual responses such as recruitment or immigration.
A strong, strategic industry workforce development plan with collaborative buy in from all segments of the industry is what is required to help solve these challenges.
Rail Careers 2010, to be held in Brisbane on May 13th-14th, aims to collaboratively formulate a plan of attack to get major rail works underway and delivered on time and will focus on the key workforce priorities for rail, as set down by the Rail Skills & Careers Council (RSCC).
Areas of focus include:
.Workforce planning
.Attraction & industry image
.Culture, employee engagement & retention
.Career pathways
.Skills development
.Succession planning & knowledge management
.Communication & collaboration
Guest speakers will include researchers and experts from within and outside the industry including:
.Danny Broad, Executive General Manager – Freight Services, Downer EDI
.Brian Appleby, Executive Director People, Public Transport Authority WA
.Jenny McAuliffe, Human Resources Manager, ARTC
.Tony Higgins, HR Manager, WestNet
.Ron Devitt, General Manager, RailCorp Training
.Bryan Nye, CEO, Australasian Railway Association
.Peter Mitchem, Chairman, Capability Task Force, AustRoads
.Robin Shreeve, CEO, Skills Australia
.Dr Amanda Gudmundsson, Director of Graduate Studies, Queensland University of Technology
.Dr Ros Cameron, Lecturer, School of Commerce and Management, Southern Cross University

Places still available
Email:  registration@informa.com.au
Or call:  (+612) 02 9080 4307