Melbourne tram drivers will go on strike for four hours on Thursday, August 27, after operator Keolis Downer’s request for intervention from the Fair Work Commission was dismissed. Metro Trains drivers, meanwhile, have planned a number of industrial measures for next week.
The Victoria branch of the Rail Tram & Bus Union (RTBU) is representing workers in a pair of ongoing employment negotiations: one with Yarra Trams, operated by Keolis Downer; the other with Metro Trains, operated by Hong Kong-based MTR Corporation.
Both workforces planned a strike last Friday, August 21, but this action was suspended when sides returned to the negotiating table in both cases.
But RTBU tram and bus divisional secretary Phil Altieri said on Tuesday, August 25 that talks had not improved, and a strike would go ahead for tram workers on Thursday.
“Despite further negotiations with Yarra Trams last week the offer made by the company on Friday is still a long way from being acceptable to our members,” he said.
“We have been in negotiations for a new enterprise agreement since April and the latest offer from Yarra Trams has not addressed our members’ concerns around conditions and wages.”
Altieri said the union continued to negotiate over the weekend and earlier this week, “but our members are frustrated by the failure to address our members concerns and have been left with no option but to take industrial action.”
Yarra Trams responded on Wednesday, saying it shared its customers’ frustration “that industrial action will affect their travel plans.”
Tram drivers will strike from 10am to 2pm on Thursday.
“Our first priority is the safety of our passengers, employees and the community and we will ensure that all contingency plans consider the wider community’s safety at all times,” Yarra Trams said. “Limited replacement buses will supplement existing train and bus services, with the aim of providing a way for the community to keep moving during the disruption.”
In a last-ditch attempt to keep services running, the tram operator applied to the Fair Work Commission earlier this week for an intervention, saying the work stoppage “is threatening to endanger the personal safety or health or the welfare of a part of the population of Melbourne who rely on public transport generally and tram services in particular”.
But Fair Work Commissioner Tim Lee rejected Yarra Trams’ application, saying he was not satisfied that the stoppage posed such a threat to health or safety.
On the heavy passenger rail side of things, the RTBU said on Wednesday that it would use next week to impose a number of industrial measures “aimed at Metro’s hip pocket, not the travelling public”.
Running all of next week, the train workers plan to refuse to wear company uniforms. They will also refuse to inspect Myki ticketing cards.
A ban is also planned on short arrivals and short departures, as well as a ban on station skipping between 9am and midnight.
A pair of work stoppages are also planned at this stage: a one-hour stoppage between 3am and 4am on Thursday, August 3 and a four-hour stoppage between 2am and 6am on Friday, August 4.
“The industrial action is aimed at hitting Metro where it hurts,” RTBU secretary Luba Grigorovitch said, “the hip pockets.
“Metro’s practice of altering train timetables at the last minute and skipping stations just so it can receive bonus payments from the government will be a target of the bans.
“Combined with early morning workplace stoppages, our bans will send a clear message to Metro that it is time to acknowledge the contribution our members make to Metro’s record profits.”