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November 2004   

Interview: The Reich Stuff
Robert Reich has led the debate on the future of work � both as an academic and politician. Now he�s on his way to Australia to help NSW unions push the envelope.

Economics: Crime and Punishment
Mark Findlay argues that the present psychological approach to prison programs is increasing the likelihood of re-offending and the threat to community safety.

Environment: Beyond The Wedge
Whether the great forestry divide can ever be overcome or whether it is best sidestepped for the sake of unity and sustainability in other areas is up for debate, writes Tara de Boehmler.

International: The End Of The Lucky Country
Linda Weiss, Elizabeth Thurbon and John Mathews show us How To Kill A Country

Safety: Tests Fail Tests
Nick Lewocki from the RTBU lifts the lid on the shonky science behind RailCorp testing

Politics: Labo(u)r Day
John Robertson lets fly at this years Labor Day dinner

Human Rights: Arabian Lights
Tim Brunero reports on how a Sydney sparky took on the Taliban and lived to tell the tale.

History: Labour's Titan
Percy Brookfield was a big man who was at the heart of the trade union struggles that made Broken Hill a quintessential union town writes Neale Towart.

Review: Foxy Fiasco
To find out who is outfoxing who, read Tara de Boehmler's biased review of a subjective documentary about corrupt journalism.

Poetry: Then I Saw The Light
Brothers and sisters! Praise the Lord! Brother George has saved the White House from an invasion by infidels, writes resident bard David Peetz.


The Locker Room
In Naming Rights Only
Phil Doyle has Gone to Gowings

The Soapbox
Homeland Insecurity
Rowan Cahill tells us how the Howard Government�s appointment of Major-General Duncan Lewis to head up the national security division of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet has received little critical comment, until now.

The Westie Wing
New proposed legislation in NSW provides a vital window of opportunity for unions to ensure they achieve convictions for workplace deaths, writes Ian West.


What�s In a Name?
McDonalds is doing it, IAG has done it, James Hardie desperately needs to do it � and now the Labor Council of NSW is doing it, re-working its brand to meet the changing demands of their markets.


 Unions Dump Labor

 Shearers Brush Woolly Mammoths

 Girls Should Be Short Changed

 Sydney Turns Down Volume

 Minister Rides Collie

 Staff, Trees Weather the Blame

 Offshore Embassy for Families

 Visy Paper Folds

 Workers Unplug Power Cuts

 Silverwater Offers Porridge

 Environment Wiped Out In Dubbo

 Justice Eludes Kariong Staff

 Nelson Flags Another Raid

 Five Steps to Sanity

 Activists What's On!

 Too Young
 Let's Start A New Party
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Tests Fail Tests

Nick Lewocki from the RTBU lifts the lid on the shonky science behind RailCorp testing

A new and expensive testing regime has been introduced by RailCorp that is allegedly testing the psychological health and aptitude of Train Drivers - Guards - Signallers and Safety Critical Rail Workers

This health testing is seeing staff assessed for both physical and psychological fitness, while their aptitude is being tested for their suitability for the job.

This has allegedly arisen from the McInerney Inquiries into both the Glenbrook and Waterfall train accidents, with the idea being to promote safety.

The public has begun to doubt the safety of rail transport, one of the safest forms of mass-transit ever designed.

This is because RailCorp are not about improving safety for the traveling public - they are about using weird science to cover up for a lack of investment in staff and infrastructure.

A lack of adequate communication facilities was identified as the major factor in the Glenbrook Disaster, yet we are yet to see the development of a communications system that would allow one train driver to talk to another.

Let's look at Waterfall. Seven people were killed - not because a train driver had a heart attack - but because government did not have the spare $245 million dollars to invest in automatic train protection.

The point is Waterfall could have been prevented.

It just takes investment in appropriate equipment and ensuring that everyone knows how to use it.

A simple and straightforward solution is being ignored in favour of the complex and dishonest approach of testing IQs and calling into question the psychological health of the State's train drivers

RailCorp are using this testing to blame drivers, in the absence of investment in training and infrastructure.

So let 's look at these tests

In RailCorp they use three tests that go under the name of psychometric testing.

These tests are effectively glorified computer games and personality tests using shape recognition, pick the odd one out, and recognizing letters.

So what happens to people who undergo these tests?

One of our members, a train driver, was forced to attend a RailCorp training facility at Petersham to undergo a test.

The first test involved crossing out letters on a page as instructed using speed and accuracy.

Then he underwent a personality test where he had to answer questions about what was most like him and least like him.

Next he underwent a test where he had to pick out the pattern in a line of objects.

The final test involved a computer game style test using what looks like an oversize "game boy" to "test" your brain.

This would be great if we were getting Donkey Kong to drive our trains, but luckily we deal with real people.

He also did the Mackworth Clock Test, a device that was used to test the aptitude of Spitfire pilots during the Second World War, and is also another glorified computer game.

Now, I'm sure we could all equate getting through peak hour Sydney as a bit of a war zone, but whether or not measuring a Train Driver using this sort of technology is appropriate is questionable to say the least.

On a serious note, this member had himself re-tested, out of his own pocket, only to find that Railcorp's tests were way off the mark.

Unions engaged independent experts to evaluate these tests, and they produced evidence that this test predicts training performance, yet RailCorp is using it to test the operational skills of its staff, not their ability to be trained!

The independent assessment of the test for driver concentration concluded that, and I quote "The evidence that is available is scanty, fragmented and inconclusive, and is based on too few actual cases" and that there was a "lack of evidence that it does predict driver vigilance, concentration and attention".

The independent report also concluded that a driver could competently drive a train yet perform poorly in the Mackworth Clock test.

It outlined that there were significant other factors that affected driver's vigilance. These included issues of fatigue management.

The report questioned as to why there were no tests involving the use of simulated train operation to determine a driver's competence.

We can reveal today that RailCorp has exactly this sort of a facility at its training school at Petersham.

This is currently mothballed while money and time is being wasted on these ridiculous tests.

In February 2004 RailCorp cancelled a professional development program that the train simulator was to be used for, showing no consideration for preventative training.

Rather, RailCorp is just looking for someone to blame if something goes wrong.

No one is arguing that train drivers should not be vigilant but to use such shoddy gimmicks as psychometric testing to measure drivers is to dodge the real safety issues.

These tests are being used as a disciplinary tool by management.

Rail workers have complained to the union that they were being stood down - effectively being stripped of their jobs - because of these tests.

The end result is that this new regime is being implemented as a disciplinary tool, rather than as a safety measure.

This problem isn't exclusive to RailCorp either.

We are increasingly seeing these Psychometric tests used in other industries as well

Recently it came to light how miners were being tested on their suitability to operate heavy equipment by being given a test that involved having to catch an egg using straws and a length of cello tape.

Believe it or not, this "test", if you can call it that, is called the eggsplosion test.

These tests are used in the majority of pre-employment screening, and people are unfairly culled because these tests do not take into account cultural bias - because we all come from different backgrounds.

These tests have also been used to promote bullies. There is an incident that stems from a major NSW Government Agency that I can't name, where a senior applicant was rejected on the grounds that they were too empathetic to staff and not aggressive enough.

This was discovered, apparently, through using this psychometric testing.

The real issues here are being ignored or deliberately obscured because management prefers not to be held accountable for the necessary investment and regulatory oversight in maintaining an investment.

Safety in workplaces is too important to leave it to policies that are held together by pieces of straw and cello tape.

This was an address to the 2004 Unions NSW Safety Delegates Conference


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