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Newcastle Herald: Rail drivers keep fighting

Oct 24, 2017Loco Express

The Newcastle Herald, Ian Kirkwood Photos: Newcastle Herald

Greg Cameron

WITH a regular backdrop of supportive motorists’ horns, more than 100 striking Pacific National freight train drivers vowed on Monday to keep up industrial action in pursuit of a new enterprise agreement.

Gathered outside Pacific National’s Port Waratah terminal on Industrial Drive, the Rail, Tram and Bus Union mass meeting came at the end of a 48-hour stoppage from noon on Saturday.

The coal and bulk cargoes train drivers – women as well as men – were especially angry at a public statement issued on Friday by Pacific National that they said was inaccurate.

The statement said the striking drivers were on 12 per cent superannuation, but union organiser Steve Wright said this applied only in Victoria.

“Everyone here is on the same 9.5 per cent that is standard,” Mr Wright said.

The statement also said that 20 per cent of Pacific National drivers were on $150,000 a year, but Mr Wright said anyone on that sort of money “are the ones working away from home interstate and at depots elsewhere in the state because of redundancies given out in areas that are now booming in grain haulage”.

When the mass meeting was asked how many drivers earned $150,000, no-one put their hand up.

The strike by hundreds of drivers stopped Pacific National coal trains to Newcstle and Port Kembla, and affected grain and other bulk cargo trains across much of the state.

The meeting heard that the union and Pacific National had held more than 30 bargaining meetings without any real result or progress.

“Everything we put to them they just say they have problems with,” Mr Wright said.

Union project officer Greg Cameron said the plan was to merge separate coal and bulk cargoes enterprise agreements into a single document covering both types of trains.

But in a “stunt” on Friday, the company bypassed the union by writing directly to employees saying it now wanted to negotiate on separate agreements.

Mr Wright said the union had called for a hearing before Fair Work Australia, which was scheduled for Wednesday in Sydney.

At the close of the meeting, members voted for overtime bans to be introduced whenever the union executive “sees fit”. Another 48-hour stoppage is scheduled for next weekend.

Pacific National insists the offer it has put to workers is “attractive” and “aligned” to industry standards.

Read this article on The Newcastle Herald. 

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