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Latest RTBU COVID-19 update

Jun 9, 2020COVID19 News

This week saw another steady increase in patronage on NSW public transport. There is yet to be the unmanageable jump that many expected to occur with schools going back and many returning to the workplace for the first time since COVID-19 began. However, there remains a concern that some services in peak hours are operating above the level which would allow proper physical distancing. This led the Government to announce earlier in the week that it would be introducing an additional 3,350 services (3,100 extra bus services and 250 extra train services) – which is good news for commuters and members who share the space on these crowded peak hour services.

In very encouraging news, there have been no new COVID-19 cases through community transmission in NSW for the past week, despite the lifting of several restrictions on people gathering. With restaurants and pubs now open again, things seem to be returning to normal again and we hope that trend continues. 

After extensive lobbying and protest efforts from the unions, the NSW Government’s attack on frontline COVID workers by attempting to subject them to a wage freeze was defeated in the Upper House on Tuesday night by a combination of Labor Party, Greens, One Nation, Shooter and Fishers, and Animal Justice Party votes. It is comforting that these politicians could see the nonsense of the wage freeze proposed by the Government. Unfortunately the government will continue their attempts by taken it to the Industrial Relations Commission.

The Federal Government sat down with business and unions this week to discuss what the industrial relations landscape would look like after the pandemic subsided. The ACTU participated in this process in good faith, but with no real expectations. The Government’s record on union related issues speaks for itself – since 2013 it has:

  • Launched a Royal Commission worth $80 million worth of tax payers’ money into the union movement which ultimately turned up very little;
  • Reintroduced the Australian Building and Construction Commission – a body designed to crush the CFMEU’s workplace power using draconian methods;
  • Established the Registered Organisations Commission – a body that raids union offices for paperwork errors;
  • Tried (unsuccessfully so far) to pass the union busting “Ensuring Integrity” Bill – a move designed to further fetter union power and to lock up union officers;
  • Legislated to reduce the time a worker has to think through a vote to change their enterprise agreement to a mere 24 hours – a move designed to allow employers to more easily cut workers’ conditions.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. There are many more examples – too many to list here. It would take a major change of heart and philosophy for the Morrison Government to now propose something that would be acceptable to the workers of Australia.

In the last week very little has changed in the workplace due to COVID-19 as far as we are aware, but If you have any specific concerns about COVID-19 that you feel are not being adequately addressed, please ensure you contact your local delegate or organiser. It is important that we don’t become complacent during the recovery period and it is all of our responsibility to ensure that employers are held to account.