Australian rail union responds to Pacific National lockout by resuming talks


Australian rail union responds to Pacific National lockout by resuming talks

Oscar Grenfell

9 May 2017

The Rail Train and Bus Union (RTBU) responded to a lockout of Pacific National’s Victorian freight train drivers last week by limiting industrial action to two token work bans and agreeing to resume back-room negotiations with the company for eight weeks.

The union’s latest manoeuvre is aimed at suppressing widespread anger among freight train drivers over a new Pacific National (PN) Enterprise Bargaining Agreement (EBA). The proposed EBA covering PN’s Victorian rural and bulk division reportedly slashes a raft of working conditions and lays the basis for major wage cuts.

The RTBU called a 48-hour strike on May 1 to protest against the EBA. PN threatened a lockout of all freight train drivers.

Business figures have complained that the industrial action was obstructing transport of a record grain crop in Victoria. Wakefield Transport, a Victorian freight company, which uses PN’s trains, reported that it carried out an additional 634 truck trips last week, in a bid to prevent the strike affecting freight movement.

Earlier work bans in March and April had resulted in the cancellation of up to 30 freight train journeys. This affected Victoria’s main bulk handlers, including Emerald Grain, GrainCorp and AWB GrainFlow.

In comments to the press on the eve of last week’s strike, Marc Marotta, the secretary of the RTBU’s Victorian locomotive division, made clear the union was seeking to reach a deal with the company. “I wish there was another way around this but that’s the legal framework in which we work,” he said.

PN nevertheless proceeded with the week-long lockout, in an attempt to bludgeon the workforce into accepting the terms of the EBA.

Speaking to the…

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