Workers win over Yarra Trams

September 25, 2015
Industrial action won the tram workers some important gains.

A planned strike set for September 22 was cancelled when the tram and bus division of the Rail Tram and Bus Union (RTBU) struck a deal with Yarra Trams.

Workers had to take industrial action to win an agreement — they had non-uniform days, they banned short-running on tram routes and they had two four-hour strikes. They were about to go on strike again for four hours when the negotiations reached a resolution.

According to the union's media release, workers won a 17% pay rise over four years, back-dated to July 1. Yarra Trams had attempted to limit the pay rise to 13% over four years with a massive attack on conditions.

Other wins were:
· 28 days’ notification for master timetable changes for all members;
· Improved notice of 21 days for drivers’ allocation of Relief Tables;
· A maximum meal break length of 70 minutes for drivers on weekends;
· An improved revised disciplinary counselling policy, including an appeals panel;
· Annual leave loading paid week by week;
· Introduction of trauma and family violence leave;
· An increase in parental leave provisions; and
· Minimum of working hours of seven hours on Monday-Saturday and six hours on Sundays.

In an industry where the work is shift, and the shift length varies wildly from day to day and where split shifts are common, improvements in rosters and improved notification of roster changes are crucial.

The pay rise is also important. Public transport will be operating 24-hours a day on weekends from January 1, so a lot more tram and train workers will be doing a graveyard shift. Workers deserve to be compensated for the disruption that these shifts cause to sleeping patterns and family and social life.

Other planned attacks, such as the introduction of 12-hour shifts, were only taken off the table in negotiations after one of the strikes.

RTBU Tram and Bus division secretary Phil Alieri and assistant secretary John Anderson published a statement on the RTBU website thanking all members and congratulating them for the “solidarity shown throughout this dispute. Your resolve and tenacity in all actions resulted directly in lifting the wage offer from 13% to 17%.”

However, rail workers who are also fighting for a decent enterprise agreement have reached a stalemate in their negotiations with Metro Trains. Rail workers have responded by voting to strike on October 1 for four hours. Rail workers will also ban wearing uniforms for a week, ban station skipping on October 2 and ban inspecting Myki tickets on October 3, the day of the AFL Grand Final.

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