Media Release – Industrial action begins against ARTC
Australian Rail Track Corporation employees across the state will stop work this week in a stand against the company’s refusal to continue negotiations with workers.
ARTC, the federal government-owned corporation that manages the interstate rail network across Australia, was still not interested in reaching an agreement, with final talks between the company and unions held on Tuesday failing to yield a result despite 18 months of discussions.
The combined rail unions (RTBU, ASU, ETU, and Professionals Australia), representing 580 employees across a number of professional, technical, and administrative roles at ARTC, including train control roles, have been negotiating to equalise conditions for workers across the company.
Rail, Tram and Bus Union NSW Branch Secretary, Alex Claassens, said that after months of supposedly negotiating in good faith, ARTC has put an even worse offer to employees.
“Despite the fact that employees emphatically voted down the last enterprise agreement in December, ARTC has put another draft proposal to workers with a reduced offer that just takes negotiations backwards,” Mr Claassens said.
“This dramatic and punitive action by the company ignores the views of its employees and employees’ willingness to negotiate to reach an agreement.
The union said there was no end in sight if ARTC refused to come back to the table and address worker concerns.
“Workers just want a fair hearing, but from the beginning ARTC has been unwilling to budge. They’ve been hiding behind the federal government’s Workplace Bargaining Policy to demonstrate why they can’t give workers a better offer, but this is a document that ARTC is not even bound by,” Mr Claassens said.
“When employees who control our rail network are still denied any breaks during an 8 hour shift you can see that we have some way to go before the company will address key workplace health and safety concerns.
“Many of the claims put forward by the unions could be resolved at no cost to the company – including fairer rostering principles, improved consultation with workers, and better dispute resolution.”
Mr Claassens said passenger services would be affected by the stoppages on Thursday and Friday, with the union regretting any inconvenience to the public.
“We certainly didn’t want it to come to this, but unfortunately we’ve been left with no other option. The workers simply can’t sit back and let the company refuse to make simple common sense changes that would improve working conditions,” Mr Claassens said.
“ARTC would rather see passengers delayed than to simply come back to the table, and speak with their workers about concerns they have about their treatment at work.”
With the threat of privatisation hanging over ARTC, workers are also seeking the formalising of basic protections that the company has failed to enact that currently leave the door open for rights and entitlements to be stripped away at a moments notice.
“The government has already released a scoping study for privatising ARTC, and the workers know that it is only a matter of time before their jobs are at risk,” Mr Claassens said.
“Right now, the enterprise agreement gives no protection to workers if ARTC is privatised, or downsized, or regional workplaces are closed down completely with jobs sent overseas.
“ARTC workers just want a fair deal, and to feel safe and secure while at work.”