STA sacks union delegate

Issue 

On July 17, Chris M, a union delegate at the NSW State Transit’s Port Botany depot, was sacked by the State Transit Authority (STA), which is the government owned authority responsible for the operations of Sydney Buses and Newcastle Buses & Ferries. The sacking occurred four days prior to M becoming a permanent employee and thus having access to unfair dismissal protection. On July 17, Chris M, a union delegate at the NSW State Transit's Port Botany depot, was sacked by the State Transit Authority (STA), which is the government owned authority responsible for the operations of Sydney Buses and Newcastle Buses & Ferries. The sacking occurred four days prior to M becoming a permanent employee and thus having access to unfair dismissal protection.

M had been working at State Transit for two years on a bus driver traineeship. During this time he had been an active unionist. He stood in the most recent union elections on a platform of democratic unionism, transparency, accountability and union independence from management, and called for regular union meetings at his workplace of around 350 members. M was subsequently elected as union delegate in January of this year.

Since his election, he has acted in the best interest of union members, including campaigning for bus drivers' safety from violence — including possible bans — which resulted in management spending additional funds to increase security. He campaigned for the conducting of safety audits on buses to ensure compliance with Road Transport Authority regulations, and waged a campaign to evaluate the roster system for compliance with the award.

Around four weeks ago M started circulating a petition in his workplace calling for further protest mobilisations to call for a full repeal of Work Choices and the Workplace Relations Act including AWAs (individual contracts), the elimination of the Australian Building and Construction Commission, and to enshrine in law the right of workers to take industrial action in defence of their economic and social interests.

On July 17, Raul Baonza, divisional secretary of the Rail, Tram and Bus Union, advised M that he had been asked by the STA to come to the depot to accompany M to the depot manager's office to discuss his traineeship.

Depot manager Mark Cruden and STA industrial officer Greg Hanson informed M that despite his traineeship ending on July 21, management had decided to ask him to leave immediately as they would not be offering him a permanent position.

M was told that despite a successful completion of all competencies of the Certificate III traineeship he had received a few passenger and employee complaints and therefore his work performance was unsatisfactory. His request to view his employment record was denied; he was told it would be sent to him later. Similarly, he was told written notification of his termination would not be given to him.

M believes that he was sacked because of his union activities, given that State Transit is experiencing a severe shortage of bus drivers, which has resulted in the cancellation of numerous services on a daily basis.

According to M, complaints on his file relate to an incident with a member of the public experiencing a problem in relation to schoolchildren not dipping their school passes, and two employees alleging inappropriate behaviour for minor incidents. None of these incidents by themselves or taken as a whole would justify dismissal.

Over the past 12 months, M has not received any valid Attendance Review letters or any other warnings that would indicate any problem with his record that could prevent his permanent employment.

In the first week after the dismissal, M held a vigil outside Port Botany depot, receiving indications of support from a great number of union members. Members explained that management had started a system of questioning of individuals on unrelated matters, which they perceived as an attempt at intimidation.

M has lodged an unfair dismissal claim with the Industrial Relations Commission. His IRC hearing will be at 3pm on September 10. He believes that he will be able to return to his former position at the Port Botany Depot providing there is ongoing active support from the union members at the Port Botany depot. He is also asking for support from the broader community. Messages of support can be sent to via email to chris_rtbu_pb@hotmail.com or by phoning 0418 419 946.