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Rail Union to Ballot on Industrial Action Over Safety

Rail Union to Ballot on Industrial Action Over Safety

The Rail and Maritime Transport Union (RMTU), which represents Locomotive Engineers and on board crews on Auckland’s passenger rail network is to ballot members on industrial action after talks with French owned multi-national Transdev broke down yesterday.

‘’The RMTU has been in collective bargaining with Transdev since May this year and this week we reached the end of the line,” said RMTU Organiser John Kerr.

“The sticking point is the push by Auckland Transport and Transdev to move to driver only operation on the trains if the New Zealand Transport Authority approves their Safety Case variation,’’ he said.

“Our position is clear, trains are currently crewed by Locomotive Engineers and train managers and removing the latter from the train severely compromises passenger and public safety,” he said.

“Contrary to what some of the bureaucrats at Auckland Transport think, train managers do far more than just walk up and down a train; they are first responders in the event of medical emergencies; they ensure all passengers including the disabled can safely access the network; they are there to assist passengers in the event of level crossing and other track and infrastructure incidents that might require safe passenger evacuation; they act as a deterrent to anti-social behaviour on trains. Most importantly each and every train is crewed by a train manager and therefore the travelling public know that when they travel by rail a trained, safety-critical, uniformed member of staff is never far away,’’ he said.

“Auckland Transport and Transdev want to do away with permanent on board train crew and our members are saying no, that’s not safe,’’ he said.

“We’ve tried negotiating a deal whereby the on-board train crew like train managers and ticket inspectors will stay aboard the trains during the term of a new collective agreement and we’ve met a flat no,’’ he said.

“Transdev have offered more money to locomotive engineers to accept the removal of the on-board crew from the trains and the message we’re getting from the LE’s is that they don’t want to be solely responsible for hundreds of passengers on a train at the same time as doing the safety-critical job of driving the vehicle,’’ he said. “How do you look out the window to operate the train in accordance with signals and safely and at the same time closely monitor the in train camera’s to ensure passenger safety and security” our LE members ask?

“Given negotiations have now broken down we have no option but to ballot our members so we can fight for safety and get the message through to Transdev and to Auckland Transport, ‘’ he said.

“We don’t want to inconvenience the public but there is no compromise over safety. We will be balloting on a number of options including overtime bans and withdrawals of labour across a range of dates, ‘’ he said.

“We hope it doesn’t come to stopping the trains but the ball is very much in Transdev and Auckland Transport’s court, they’ve caused this dispute and they know what it will take to resolve it. The ballot will take two weeks.’’ he said.

“Tomorrow our members will join with FIRST and the Tramways unions, who represent the bus drivers, at a protest to deliver a petition signed by thousands of members of the public to Auckland Transport,’’ he said.

“Hopefully they will get the message and together with Transdev we can resolve the issue,’’ he said. This is a first as the Auckland rail system has never been disrupted by industrial action and to have the possibility of it happening now over a safety matter is sad.


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