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.”