|Issue No. 223
|04 June 2004
Last Year�s Model
Interview: The New Democrat
Bad Boss: The Ugly Australian
Unions: Free Spirits and Slaves
Industrial: National Focus
History: A Class Act
International: Across the Ditch
Economics: Home Truths
Review: No Time Like Tomorrow
Poetry: Silent Note
The Locker Room
Ghan Raises Trans-Continental Stink
Great Southern Railways, which operates the Indian Pacific and The Ghan, is also alleged to be emptying dunnies on its way across the World Heritage Listed Blue Mountains.
According to the Rail Tram and Bus Union (RTBU) safety has been an ongoing issue with the operator since its inception in 1997.
Crews, who are often working shifts of up to 17 hours with only one or two breaks, point to understaffing with 75 percent of all trains departing short handed.
Two staff are expected to look after the needs of up to 126 passengers.
"Imagine running a hotel with 126 guests with only two staff," says Greg Harvey from the RTBU, who believes that the company's scant disregard to its workforce is now extending to its passengers. "One person is expected to make 48 bunk beds in an hour while the train is travelling through the Blue Mountains."
Other issues that have been highlighted by workers include hospitality staff having to manually unblock toilets (leaving them covered in waste, for which they have been given an apron), burns from unsafe kitchen appliances, untagged electrical equipment, needlestick injuries and inadequate amenities.
"The carpet in the staff accommodation is so dirty that mushrooms are growing in the corner," says Harvey. "One employee was hit in the face by an unsecured fridge door, which left their glasses broken. The company refused to replace the glasses because they didn't want to 'set a precedent'."
According to the RTBU Great Southern Railways, who are covered by South Australian safety laws, has a high rate of casualisation - leaving workers frightened to speak up through fear of the company failing to give them work.
"There's nine crews operating on the Great Southern Railway and we wanted health and safety representatives on each crew," says the RTBU's. "but they offered us one or two, which is ineffective."
"I'd like to say it was unbelievable but nothing surprises me any more," says Harvey of the use of forklifts for disabled passengers. "Why should they resort to that when there are things like mobile platforms and ramps that have been used in the past."
Management are on the record claiming that the forklift procedure was "100 percent" safe.
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