By Ray Ferguson
BRISBANE — Brisbane City Council bus drivers stopped work for four hours on June 3 in protest against council management failure to properly consult with the union leadership concerning the implementation of periodic medical assessment.
The medical assessments will come into force on July 1, after the state government amended the Urban Transport Act. The act effects all public transport organisations. The BCC failed to properly consult the union and the drivers concerning its application.
The drivers' only official notification by the council was a written notice placed in all of the drivers' lockers. This notice informed the drivers of when the medical assessment would begin and how they would apply.
Council intentions were that the medical assessments would be carried out in the workplace by the council's medical team with checks being made on blood pressure, eyesight, visual and colour perception. The notice circulated by the BCC to the drivers made no reference to whether drivers would have the right to have their medicals conducted by their own doctor.
More importantly, the notice failed to advise the drivers of their rights and what their future employment prospects would be in the event of failing the medical assessment.
A mass meeting of the drivers on the day of the stoppage carried a resolution endorsing the decision of the Public Transport Union executive in calling the stoppage and the proposal to have further discussion with management.
When drivers returned to their depots, a further council notice was issued. This attempted to undermine the union leadership and cause division among the membership by inferring that it was the union leadership that had failed to consult and not the council management.
The notice advised that drivers will be able to make their own arrangements to have their medical conducted by their own doctor. Secondly, failure of the medical would lead to rehabilitation as the first priority and redeployment as the second — in accordance with terms of the enterprise bargaining agreement. Only in the extreme cases of "permanently unfit" with no redeployment prospects would separation be contemplated.
The BCC bus drivers are not opposed to periodic medical assessment and in fact recognise that assessments are a necessity in the interests of passenger safety and their own well-being.
However, such a process requires proper consultation and assurances concerning the effects on the driver's future employment. If BCC management had informed the union and the drivers of the arrangements and assurances contained in the second notice, then the stoppage would probably not have occurred.
Enterprise bargaining is supposed to be based on proper consultation. If this is an example of the BCC management's concept of consultation then BCC bus drivers will have to remain alert.