Member update: 4 April
We are now in unprecedented times and the going is rough for many of us in the tram and bus lanes.
We just want to start off by letting you know how thankful we all are to see our tram and bus members on the frontlines, working hard despite all the difficulty and stress. We know how worrying it can be and to be there when people need you the most, even at your own risk, is why our tram and bus members are a shining example. We know that without you working, everything would fall apart.
Your Tram and Bus Division has been keeping in regular contact with your employers, the government and health officials. RTBU staff are now working remotely as per government instructions but the office is still manned by a skeleton staff. All queries will be answered but please appreciate that the change in circumstance may mean things take a little longer.
The annual distribution of movie tickets will be put on hold while we deal with the current health crisis. The focus is on keeping people safe, working and earning an income. Also, the cinemas are closed!
Bus members operating in Newcastle, STA, and in Region 6 under the Copied State Award should also be aware that the Picnic Day has been nominated as Sunday May 3rd, which means an extra 7hours 36min cash payment.
As it is such a time of uncertainty, we can’t be sure of what we will hear next. That’s why we’re staying on top of all the new information being released and determining exactly what it means for our members. We are fighting hard to ensure that our members are kept in work and are protected. Although a reduction in timetables is perhaps inevitable, it remains to be seen what form that takes.
As of yesterday, Transport for NSW committed for the moment, to keeping normal timetable operations which means we can now push the companies to pay members at rostered work levels in the event of stand-downs or required self-isolation. We’ll be pushing everyone for a formal commitment to do that next week.
Canberra Metro members have been provided with comprehensive PPE to do their jobs, including masks, glasses, wipes, sanitisers, and gloves. They have also introduced different sign on requirements to ensure that each shift is separated. CMET also took the proactive approach of asking employees both how they wanted to receive updates and how often. A comprehensive policy update as well as consistent communication from management has kept members informed about changes to procedure and operations.
Keolis-Downer in Newcastle this week took delivery of bulk hand-sanitiser sourced from Western Australia. The company has also set up cleaning stations at Customs House and John Hunter Hospital. All buses terminating at these locations are being disinfected, additional to the enhanced cleaning taking place every night in the yards.
The RTBU has been having discussions with the bus operators – STA, Keolis Downer, and Transit Systems – in an attempt to enforce more stringent physical distancing for passengers on buses. However, we are still waiting on Transport for NSW to see the merits of this proposal. The decision made by TfNSW yesterday to maintain current service levels is extremely welcome. It gives certainty to both drivers and contract operators and means that discussions about closing a portion of the seats on buses can move ahead now that we know services are staying the same.
The Union will also be seeking to ensure that now we know companies will be paid as normal, employees are paid properly should they be required to self-isolate or in the unfortunate event that there are stand downs. Discussions will be held next week to establish formal agreement with all Tram and Bus operators in NSW. We will also be talking to the ACT Government about matching this position.
We want to be certain that the health and safety of our members is at the forefront of employers’ minds. We’re chasing PPE equipment and taking care that employers provide members with the appropriate protection. Anyone with concerns that their employer is not providing appropriate PPE or materials (such as sanitiser) should contact the Union immediately.
We know you all have questions so in case you missed it, we have created a list of frequently asked questions that we’ll continue to update as new information comes to hand. We also have a section on COVID-19 on our website where we are adding the latest information. Please don’t hesitate to contact your local delegate or the Division office if you still have questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Region 6 sick leave update
It is unfortunate that in spite of the good things Transit Systems has been doing in conjunction with Unions to protect drivers and other staff during the COVID-19 viral outbreak, they continue to work to undermine the workforce and take away conditions. Firstly, the new suite of policies they seek to put into place confirms the non-payment of public holidays on a Saturday for ex-STA staff after a full bench of the Fair Work Commission found they were wrong. The company has shown again, that it wants nothing more than to screw drivers as much as they can. This is being lodged with the FWC, and has already been lodged in the Federal Court.
Secondly, in a completely disgusting act of bastardry, TSA has decided in the middle of a declared Global Pandemic, to change the ex-STA casual day sick leave policy. This means that at a time when people are being told to not go to the doctor unless necessary, when doctors are being overwhelmed with fearful people, employees are being told they have 2 and not 6 casual days of sick leave. We’ve raised this at the highest levels of government and are taking it public. This shows more than ever, the underlying difference between public and private operators. Transit Systems is determined to make savings and wherever possible, to take that money from staff. They care nothing about your wellbeing unless forced to do so. Remember that when they ask you for something down the track and tell you how much they value you.
Thanks again for all your hard work. Stay safe and remember, now more than ever we are stronger together.
David Babineau and Daniel Jaggers