Australia : Buses to replace trains on Hunter Line after Australian Rail Track Corporation employee strike
Employees of Australian Rail Track Corporation are taking industrial action on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
BUSES will replace passenger trains
on the Hunter Line for part of Thursday and all of Friday and Saturday.
Employees of the federally-run Australian Rail Track Corporation are taking industrial action from 12noon to 2pm on Thursday and from 7am on Friday to 7am on Sunday, which has prompted NSW TrainLink to schedule buses on the two arms of the line between Hamilton, via Maitland, up to both Dungog and Scone.
Rail, Tram and Bus Union NSW Branch Secretary, Alex Claassens, said the company’s first major strike will include train controllers walking out of their control centres and putting signals to stop
“All trains that can get to their destination before 12pm on Thursday will go and complete their journey – no passengers will be stranded,” Mr Claassens said.
“We’ve done everything we can to reduce inconvenience to passengers and freight providers.”
Mr Claassens said rail unions had spent the past 18 months in discussions with ARTC about its three-year enterprise agreement, but the corporation had refused to roll over the four per cent annual pay increase from the previous agreement.
It has also refused to provide employees concerned about future privatisation with additional guarantees about entitlements.
The agreement covers 582 employees in NSW.
“Many of the claims put forward by the unions could be resolved at no cost to the company, including fairer rostering principles, improved consultation with workers and better dispute resolution,” he said.
ARTC said in a statement it had proposed a two per cent wage increase each year over three years and no loss of conditions.
“We are disappointed these disruptions are being forced upon our customers and we apologise to them for the impacts, loss of custom and loss of freight this potentially means,” ARTC chief executive officer John Fullerton said.
“We urge passenger train customers to plan ahead, check with their passenger operator and consider arranging alternative transport, particularly if they have any important appointments like doctor visits.”
ARTC expected the first stage of industrial action on Wednesday to cause "severe disruption” for 24 hours to coal and other freight services operating to Kooragang, Port Waratah or Hexham terminals.
It also expects these services to be affected on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
ARTC's statement said the corporation was already facing low interstate freight volumes and low coal prices, which was reflected in Moody's recently downgrading ARTC's public credit rating.
Mr Fullerton said ARTC was '’committed to reaching a fair and sustainable agreement".
But Mr Claassens asked why – after members voted down an ARTC draft proposal last December – the corporation put forward another proposal last week with a "reduced" offer that “just takes negotiations backwards”.
He said the most recent offer covers fewer employees and reduces consultation arrangements.
“This dramatic and punitive action by the company ignores the views of its employees and employees’ willingness to negotiate to reach an agreement.”