||Issue No. 208||13 February 2004|
All The Way With FTA?
Interview: Trading in Principle
Unions: While We Were Away
Politics: Follow the Leader
Bad Boss: Safety Recidivist Fingered
Economics: Casualisation Shrouded In Myths
History: Worker Control Harco Style
Review: Other Side Of The Harbour
State Of Confusion
Give Them A Medal
Commuter Headaches Continue
As Costa patched up differences with train drivers last week, hundreds of maintenance workers angry about "gross inconsistencies" in drug and alcohol procedures flagged industrial action.
AMWU Rail Industry Corporation delegates were meeting in Sydney last Friday to determine the shape of their campaign to force Costa to discuss issues they have been trying to get onto the agenda since last October.
Frustrated AMWU secretary, Paul Bastian, said Costa's inflexibility was costing his members jobs.
"Our members are calling for industrial action primarily because we have a Minister who would rather see rail in chaos than talk to workers about problems that confront them," Bastian said.
"As far back as last October we tried to discuss this issue with him. In November, he handed down this legislation like tablets from the mountain, without any consultation.
"We wrote to the Minister again in December seeking to discuss our difficulties but he won't even talk about them."
His union has the employer in the Industrial Relations Commission, claiming unfair dismissal on behalf of a process worker sacked for blowing .02 in a random breath test.
Bastian said no part of the Act workers found objectionable had been recommended by the McInerney Report or any other safety audit.
"We're fully supportive of safety procedure, safety is every bit as much an issue for rail workers as the travelling public but this system is inflexible, arbitrary and characterised by gross inconsistencies," he said.
He listed the following practical difficulties with the present regime:
- .02 is well under the .05 required to put a car driver over the limit
- experts in the field have told his union that testing machines are callibrated to record .02 as a minimum alcohol reading
- workers have no idea whether or not they will blow positive in a random test after just a few beers with friends the night before
- there is no procedure for self-identification if workers have that concern, something provided in alcohol agreements with private employers
- some workers have been sacked for blowing .02 while others haven't
- there is no differentiation between workers in "safety critical" areas and those in other jobs ie a ticket seller at the station is treated in exactly the same manner as a passenger train driver
- there are no appeal procedures
Bastian called the current regime a complete denial of procedural fairness.
"We want a system that is fair and understood, that's all. Unfortunately this Minister is happy to perform for the press but will only talk to the workforce when it resorts to industrial action."
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