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RTBU COVID-19 update

May 2, 2020COVID19 News

Things continue to look better and better on the COVID-19 front. The first lifting of restrictions commenced on Friday, 1 May meaning that two adults can now leave their house to visit another household. It has also been confirmed that school will recommence on 11 May on a limited basis. This means that our trains and buses will likely be busier with kids going to school and back home again. Nobody knows how this is going to play out, so make sure you maintain social distancing at work and don’t expose yourself to any unnecessary risks.

This week the Federal Government launched its COVIDSafe app which collects data from your smartphone and tracks when and who you have contact with. It is intended to fast-track the process of letting people know whether they have been in contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19.  We have been assured that no employer will force members to download and use the app, and that it is entirely the choice of each individual whether or not they wish to participate.

Still in app news, Transport for NSW has developed an app that allows users to find out how crowded a particular transport service is. This app uses real time data to allow commuters to properly socially distance themselves and lessen the risk to members. If you want to check it out, you can find it on the App Store or Google Play by typing in “Anytrip”.

An incident that occurred last week where three young girls spat on a bus driver has been followed up by police who were able to identify one of the perpetrators. The girl in question has now been charged and we are hopeful that the other two will be identified and charged to for this cowardly act. This will hopefully send a message that it is not okay to treat transport workers in such an abhorrent fashion. There are also reports today of some station staff in Western Sydney being coughed and spat on recently. These horrific assaults are a clear sign as to why the new laws designed to stop this kind of behaviour need to stay in place long term.     

We reported last week that Sydney and NSW Trains would be going ahead with their wage increases in May despite all the talk about pay freezes by the Government. We were able to confirm this week that the increases would apply on either the 15 May or 22 May pay dates (depending on what fortnightly cycle you are on).

In a common sense move, the Transport Minister has exempted Rail Transport Operators from having rail safety workers undergo periodic health assessments for a period of three months until 24 July 2020. The exemption applies where the Rail Operator performs a risk assessment and finds that the worker is a low risk and therefore it is appropriate to postpone the assessment due to COVID related issues with access to health professionals. It is important that members keep this in mind if you are scheduled for a health assessment in the next three months.
 

Train Crew

Train Crew representatives are still meeting regularly with Sydney Trains to ensure that any problems that arise with COVID-19 are addressed. We are still working through some individual issues with leave and hope to have them resolved soon. However, with COVID-19, no news is good news.

Unfortunately over the past month, NSW Trains has continued to push its agenda on the disastrous New Intercity Fleet project. The RTBU has become aware that NSW Trains is ignoring social distancing during the testing phase and allowing three workers in the crew cab, an area definitely not suited for that many people. Our delegates are continuing to fight the proposed unsafe and unfair operating model with Locomotive Division delegates meeting via video conference this week, and the Guards Sub-Division delegates due to do the same next week.

There was more media coverage on this issue last week. If you missed it, you can find it here. 

Workshops

There was an issue raised this week with Sydney Trains relating to the size of meal rooms at a number of cleaning sites being unable to accommodate social distancing requirements. The solution proposed by management is to stagger break times to reduce the number of people in the space. However this isn’t always possible due to train running schedules. Delegates will continue to work on resolving this issue next week.

Infrastructure

This week delegates at Sydney Trains had a productive week. It was agreed at a meeting on Thursday that a new cleaning regime would be introduced which would see two different cleans of depots occurring – a deep clean, and a time based clean. In relation to vehicles, date cards should be distributed soon by the cleaning company engaged to perform this work.

Communications from management will be sent out next week in relation to only allowing clean air to circulate in vehicles. All vehicles that are due for a service will have their filters replaced.

And finally, if there are any COVID-19 controls you think that are not being controlled effectively or there’s any outstanding issues that have not currently been addressed, please let your delegates know as we continue to meet with Sydney Trains on an ongoing Basis.

John Holland have drafted a policy for members in relation to the use of temperature guns for employees and contractors coming onto sites  This is a precautionary measure and members can undertake testing on a voluntary basis. Temperature guns have been an effective measure in other areas to stop infections from entering workplaces.

At Airport Link, after being severely affected by patronage numbers dropping by around 90% due to restrictions on air travel, management have made the decision to access the Federal Governments’ Job Keeper payment.  This has allowed members at Airport Link to resume full duties and maintain staffing levels hopefully until the end of the crisis.

Salaried and Admin

As members continue to work from home, it is important to remember the vital things we can continue to do to maintain our mental and physical wellbeing. Remember to:

  • Set up your workspace in the most ergonomic way possible (guides should have been provided by your employer, if not let us know and we’ll chase them up for you);
  • Take regular breaks from sitting;
  • Try to keep active, for example some members have engaged in the practice of going for a 5 minute walk during extended Zoom meetings;
  • Try to have social conversations to compliment work related discussions, just like you would in the workplace.

There is already talk coming from Transport about more mixed mode working when the crisis subsides so working from home will likely become a more regular working mode for many of us.

Stations

This week Sydney Trains backed down on a proposal to have Station Duty Managers accompany sick passengers on trains to avoid delays and other issues associated with this. Although this new proposal would have ordinarily had issues for the health and safety of members, to introduce it during a crisis involving a highly infectious disease seemed particularly absurd. We are pleased that Sydney Trains saw reason after the issue was raised by the RTBU.

Flying Gang

This week we’d like to give a special shout out to members in the Sydney Trains Flying Gang. Performing deep cleans of stations and associated areas; these members have gone above and beyond during this crisis. Members agreed to upend their lives by changing from night shift to day shift in a quick fashion to ensure that the job was done when it needed to be done. Their actions have led by example and have helped to keep members and commuters safe throughout this pandemic. A big thank you to all members in the Flying Gang.

Tram and Bus

Members on STA buses have welcomed a move by Transport for NSW to hopefully begin the process of installing screens to protect drivers. Although progress is slower than we’d like, these screens will be a vital barrier between drivers and those who seek to cause them harm through vile acts like spitting and coughing. We continue to push Transport to accelerate this process.

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