The Guardian November 15, 2000


National train crew fight AWAs

From October 5, the Rail, Tram and Bus Union (RTBU) stepped up its 
campaign to support 125 workers on the interstate passenger trains, by 
holding protest rallies at railway terminals in Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide 
and Perth, and calling on passengers to protest to the management about its 
policy on individual contracts.

Since June this year, the RTBU have been seeking a collective agreement 
with employer Serco to cover the train crews employed on the Indian 
Pacific, The Ghan and The Overland.

Over 80 per cent of the 150 workers have signed a petition calling for a 
union-negotiated collective agreement.

"Serco are stonewalling on collective bargaining, despite the workers' 
clear desire for that, so we are now taking our claim to the public", said 
RTBU National Secretary, Roger Jowett.

At a meeting with RTBU national officers on October 13, Serco management 
refused to accept that the petitions expressed the wishes of the workers.

On September 10, GSR/Serco agreed to withdraw their latest "information 
package" and Australian Workplace Agreements (AWAs) offer. However, the 
company says it will issue a revised version, and continue to reject the 
employees' request for a union-negotiated collective agreement to replace 
the AWAs.

The company's new package, however, will acknowledge employees' rights 
regarding AWAs, that its employees are not required to sign any new AWAs, 
unless they genuinely choose to do so.

It now agrees that if employees don't sign the new AWAs, then they will 
continue to work and be paid according to existing AWAs.

This important but limited success was achieved because On-Train crew have 
met and put forward their views, and because the RTBU was taking the 
company to the Federal Court the next day.

This means that, unless the employees agree to do it, they cannot be 
required to work according to the Serco On-Train Hospitality Award, which 
is the safety net award with lower pay and conditions than the current 
AWAs.

Meetings of GSR/Serco crews have produced a preliminary log of claims for 
the enterprise bargaining agreement. Claims so far include:

* pay increase for all GSR/Serco employees of 4.5 per cent per year for two 
years;

* an aggregate pay rate for all purposes which shows the base rate for 
calculations;

* a master roster to be posted not exceeding 24 weeks, with permanent 
lines, defined start and finish times, and defined days off;

* ten days sick leave per year to be cumulative. Sick leave to be counted 
as the actual day(s) or part day(s) absent, not rostered hours;

* a dispute settlement procedure which provides access to the Australian 
Industrial Relations Commission and arbitration if necessary, if a dispute 
cannot be resolved;

* all training time required by the company to be in the master roster and 
paid for at the appropriate rate;

* elected union representatives to be recognised by the company;

* genuine casual employment that does not undermine permanent 
employment.

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Acknowledgements Rail, Bus and Tram Worker

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