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  Issue No 109 Official Organ of LaborNet 31 August 2001  

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Unions

AWU Defends Millennium Train Workers


Mark Hearn looks at how a group of Newcastle workers are setting a new standard in the railways.

 
 

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"This is the most advanced train in the world", Wayne Diemar declares. Wayne and his workmates are justly proud of the new millenium train they are building at EDI for the State Rail Authority of New South Wales.

EDI's Cardiff plant is on the fringe of Newcastle in the economically hard-hit Hunter region. By the end of the year the first of 81 carriages will roll out of production and head down the rail line to begin service in Sydney. The new trains will be safest and the most technologically advanced to run in the state - or anywhere in Australia. The carriages feature internal surveillance cameras for security, help signs and electronic destination indicators in each passenger section of the carriage. These screens can also display other messages.

Wayne and his workmates can feel pleased with the great effort they've put into building the millenium trains. They feel less pleased with Richard Face, the NSW Minister for Gaming and a local Hunter member of the NSW Parliament. Face has criticised the apparently slow pace of production at EDI and has raised concerns that the delay may reflect on the ability of the Hunter region to meet future major engineering contracts.

Welder Todd Lawrence feels that these are ill-informed comments from a Minister who also assists Premier Bob Carr on Hunter Development. "The blokes are doing their best to get the carriages built on time, and keep jobs in the Hunter region."

Production delays have occurred as a result of design changes required by the SRA and due to the unique features of the new carriages. As Wayne Diemar says, "we've never seen trains designed to this level before." Each millenium carriage is designed to withstand the impact of a 50 mph crash - to absorb the shock of collision without breaking up, leaving the main passenger shell intact. This is an unprecedented level of crash resistance in a train.

The single air bag suspension system is also revolutionary. Trains normally operate with two air bag suspension; the single suspension system makes the train less likely to derail. "The design complexity means that it takes time to develop and test the new features", Wayne says.

Newcastle Branch AWU Secretary Kevin Maher says "the EDI workers can only do the work that's put in front of them. They've done their best, and there's been no industrial disputes at EDI. They see the Minister's comments as a slap in the face. They feel that their reputations have been damaged, and they worry about how employers might perceive them in the future."

"If the Minister wanted to find out what was really happening, all he had do is to talk to the workers at EDI - some of whom live in the Minister's own electorate."

220 workers are directly employed by EDI on the millenium train project. There are also a number of contractors providing labour and materials for the trains. EDI has currently won the tender for stage one of the project; another 120 trains are yet to be constructed - and the contract could be awarded to another company. "We're trying to win stage two and the Minister is not helping our cause", Todd Lawrence says.

EDI says it has had nothing but positive feedback from the SRA. EDI has spent $10 million refitting the SRA's old Cardiff rail workshops to construct the millenium trains. In all, the company will invest $65 million in the Hunter region.

"We've had to battle fairly high unemployment in the Hunter region in recent years", Kevin Maher says. "And we need to do everything possible to ensure that contracts won by Hunter manufacturers stay in the Hunter."


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*   Issue 109 contents

In this issue
Features
*  Interview: Union Power
Electrical Trades Union state secretary Bernie Riordan surveys the union movement's troubled relationship with Labor.
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*  International: Spreading the Word
Veronica Apap profiles Kamal Fadel and the battle he is fighting for the independence of his homeland of West Sahara.
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*  E-Change: Training for a Wired Workforce
Education is the entry point into the new economy; but the system still reflects an industrial age view of the world.
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*  Unions: AWU Defends Millennium Train Workers
Mark Hearn looks at how a group of Newcastle workers are setting a new standard in the railways.
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*  Politics: Chatting with Enemies of the State
Brazils MST is the largest and most radical social movement in the Americas. The CFMEU´s Phil Davey drops in for a chat.
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*  History: Struggle and Inspiration
Rowan Cahill argues that it is only through understanding history that we can make sense of the present plight of workers.
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*  Technology: A World Without Microsoft
Heather Sharp argues that all technologies involve political choices and moral values. Computer software is no exception, and it is Bill Gates' choices that dominate.
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*  Review: Let There Be Rock
Kid Rock and Beer Bong, Australia’s Oldest Rock Fans review the week’s music and political events from the safety of the bar stool.
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*  Satire: Tampa refugees ask to go home: "It's less inhumane than Australia"
The 460 asylum seekers on board the Tampa freight vessel have demanded to be taken back to their oppressive homelands, which they now realise aren’t nearly as hostile as Australia.
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News
»  The Meaning of Working Life – The Answer is 7.1!
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»  MUA Salvages Some Pride
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»  Common Law Report Plea – Make It Public
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»  Maintenance Contract 'Could Put Lives at Risk'
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»  Tax Office's GST Scam - 10 Per Cent Off!
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»  Della Moves on Pay Slip Concerns
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»  Authorities Scotch Bra-Burning
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»  Manusafe Decision Faces Appeal
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»  Orange Finally Saved from Closure
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»  Award Win For Telco Workers
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»  Abbott Clears Way for Lower Wages
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»  SDA Defeats 'Obscene' Westfield Parking Fees
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»  Labor Calls On Abbott To Abide By Convention
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»  Nurses Highlight Staff Shortages
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»  Keystone Cops At Wonderland Protest
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»  Call for Change in Award Increases
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»  Green Tin Box Values Gone At Commonwealth
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»  Dance for Independence
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»  Get Ready to Wobble
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»  Activist Notebook
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»  STOP PRESS: ITF says PM Tampa action illegal
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Columns
»  The Soapbox
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»  The Locker Room
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»  Trades Hall
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»  Tool Shed
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Letters to the editor
»  Unite Against Racism
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»  WorkCover Impact
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»  Improving the Debate
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»  Botsman's Satire
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»  MUA - Take a Bow!
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»  Economic Predators
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»  Email and the Waterfront Dispuite
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