Union deal saves train lines but may cost jobs

Issue 

Union deal saves train lines but may cost jobs

By Alex Cooper

MELBOURNE — A deal struck between transport minister Alan Brown and rail unions has saved a number of rail services throughout Victoria, but about 5500 jobs will be shed in the public transport sector.

Under the agreement, six of the nine country lines targeted for closure will remain open but with a reduced service. However, two of these would be privately operated. In the metropolitan area, the Williamstown and Alamein lines will remain as they are, but a decision on the Upfield line has been deferred until an environmental impact statement on the proposed Western Bypass is released.

The Western Bypass is planned to run along part of the Upfield line and will save $30 million of the estimated $1 billion cost of building the freeway, according to the government. Save the Upfield Line spokesperson Gerry McCabe told Green Left Weekly it was good that a connection has been made between plans to close the Upfield line and the Western Bypass because it brings up the whole issue of the environment. "It has turned the threatened rail closure into more than a local issue", he said.

Trains will also continue to run after 8 p.m. on all lines, station staff will be reduced and replaced by ticket machines over an 18-month period, and train guards will be removed. The Kennett government was looking to slash $245 million per year on rail expenditure, and Brown had said on January 6 that the rail closures were not negotiable.

Trades Hall organiser on public transport Barbara Lewis told the THC delegates' meeting on March 18 that time constraints had forced the unions to agree to cuts. The intention was to get an agreement before the federal elections in case of a Hewson government being elected. This would have made it difficult to get an agreement from Brown.

The agreement had saved 2500 jobs over the whole public transport sector, according to Lewis, because the government had originally wanted to reduce the work force by 8000.

The agreement, which is for four years, will be put to union members over the next 10 days.

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