Transport NOW, April 2023

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Just a sec!

In many ways, the RTBU’s 30th anniversary represents a similar milestone – a point where we can say that our amalgamated, all-grades union has reached a point of maturity and confidence.

Our predecessor unions had proud history going back to 1861. As the story on page 4 explains, they were central to some of the most iconic industrial disputes of the 20th century,

and also produced some of Australia’s finest leaders.

Since 1993 our amalgamated union has weathered the Kennett-era wave of privatisations, the Howard-era Work Choices attacks on workers’ rights, the impact of automation and new technologies, and most recently the crippling COVID lockdowns –among many other challenges.

Through it all, our union has grown together, and developed our own modern history. We are now ready for the next stage of our development as a mature union with clear sense of identity, and a proven track record of successfully standing up for workers in the rail, tram and bus industries. This edition of our national magazine gives an excellent snapshot of the issues that the RTBU is tackling. It also shows how the solidarity of our members across different occupations and grades is so essential to everything we do.

For example, our members in the bus industry have been dealing with a startling increase in anti-social and violent behaviour. There is nothing more important than workplace safety, so our Union has been campaigning to make sure that bus workers can do their jobs without having to worry about being intimated,

harassed, threatened, spat on or assaulted.

Members in the Queensland Tram and Bus division have had a significant win in this regard – which is detailed on page 13. Meanwhile, the experiences of bus drivers in Queensland and New South Wales have helped members in Tasmania get progress on important safety measures such as the introduction of Transit Officers and safety screenssee page 14.

Meanwhile South Australian members have won a huge victory in their campaign to return the privatised train and tram services back into public hands – see page 6. The support of members from across the country helped make this campaign an irresistible force.

These are just two examples of how solidarity across branches and divisions benefits all of our members. In all the challenges that we face, our national unity is truly our greatest strength.

Happy 30th birthday to all RTBU members!

In Unity

For most of us, our 30th birthday marks a turning point in life. It’s often a time when people reflect on who they are and the values that are important to them, and start to feel more secure about their place in the world.
Our predecessor unions had proud history… central to some of the most iconic industrial disputes of the 20th century, and also produced some of Australia’s finest leaders.

Stopping all stations


NATIONAL: Our national union

NATIONAL: SA becomes first state to reverse public transport privatisation

NATIONAL: Get behind the referendum on The Voice

THE BIG ISSUES: Independent Bargaining Agents

NSW: Workers call on political hopefuls to Build Them Here

QLD: State Government gets on board with bus safety

TAS: Transit Officers on their way as bus safety crisis deepens

WA: Members rally around family after tragedy

SA/NT: Paul takes a stand on safer trackside pathways

VIC: Unity crucial in big year of enterprise bargaining

INTERNATIONAL: Transport unions meet to share winning strategies

INTERNATIONAL: Unions set up solidarity fund for earthquake survivors

TRACKSAFE: ‘Rail R U OK? Day’ - no qualifications needed to ask the question.


BOOKS: Buster and Us

4 7 13 9 11 17 5 18 19 20 21 22 14 15 6 12 8 16
Transport NOW Editorial Team Published by Mark Diamond, RTBU National Secretary Edited by Stewart Prins, RTBU Executive Director Articles by Mark Southcott, Stewart Prins Designed by Rémi Bianchi Keep up to date with RTBU news at transport_now or follow us on social media  RTBU Australia 


On the 1st of March, our union reached an important milestone with the 30th anniversary of the establishment of the modern RTBU.

Our national all-grades union was formally established on 1 March 1993, when the Australian Railways Union (ARU) merged with the Australian Federated Union of Locomotive Enginemen (AFULE); the Australian Tramway & Motor Omnibus Employees’ Association (ATMOEA), and the National Union of Rail Workers of Australia (NURWA), to form the Australian Rail Tram & Bus Industry Union.

The WA Locomotive Engine Drivers’ Firemen’s and Cleaners’ Union then joined the amalgamated Union in 1999. The RTBU’s history however, goes right back to the 1861 with the formation of the Locomotive Engine Drivers Association in Victoria. Over the next 40 years, workers in the new rail and public transport industries steadily became organised in their local areas. As Australia became a political federation at the turn of the century, so to

our transport unions came together to form national associations. They also formed Trades Councils in each state, and were central to the formation of the Australian Labor Party.

Rail and public transport unions have been involved in some of the most important industrial disputes in Australian history – including the 1912 Brisbane Tramway Strike and the 1917 Railways Strike in NSW, both of which turned into massive general strikes and social confrontations.

One of the leading figures in the 1917 Railways Strike was an engine driver from Bathurst called Ben Chifley, who went on to become Labor Prime Minister of Australia from 1945 to 1949. The unions that went on to form the RTBU also produced leaders like Jim McGowan, Bill McKell and, JJ Cahill –who all rose to become State Premiers. Then there was the legendary Victorian unionist Clarrie O’Shea, the head of the Victorian Branch of ATMOEA, who was sent to jail for standing up to the anti-union laws imposed by Harold Holt’s Coalition Government in 1969. The rail and public transport unions also had many incredible workplace delegates – like Eddie Mabo, the Queensland railway worker who fought for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander land rights and justice, and became an icon for his people.

The 1993 amalgamation brought together the great majority of railway workers for the first time in one united union. The new union was also an important advocate for the role of public transport in Australian society, as it unified rail workers with government sector bus and tram employees across the country.

The new union was originally called the Public Transport Union, but the name was changed in 1998 to Rail, Tram & Bus Union.

Today our union represents over 30,000 workers. The RTBU not only is a powerful advocate for its members in their workplaces, it also plays a significant role in the Australian political landscape as a voice for fairness and social justice.


The creation of the modern RTBU in 1993 saw the new union structured into six state-based Branches and six occupation-based National Divisions.

The State Branches operate independently, with their own elected officials, office buildings and staff. All elected officials are drawn from within the membership – in fact to eligible for an elected position you must be both a member AND work in the rail, tram or bus industries.

For members, direct contact with their union is primarily through their State Branch.

The main functions of Branches include:

» negotiating state-based Enterprise Bargaining Agreements for members;

» managing individual member issues;

» employing organisers to coordinate collective action by members;

» organising delegate structures and delegate training;

» providing workplace legal advice and support to members;

» lobbying state governments and running campaign on workplace issues;

» and preparing and distributing member communications such as newsletters and member bulletins.

The Branches and Divisions work together on a national level with the support of the National Office. National Office includes the elected National Secretary and Assistant National Secretary, and a small team of specialist staff.

All Branches and the National Divisions are represented on the National Council, which is the union’s peak decision-making body, and meets once every two years. This year’s National Council meeting will be held in Brisbane on 21-23 November.

Branches and National Divisions are also represented on the National Executive, which is effectively the RTBU’s Committee of Management or Board. The National Executive meets every six months (except in National Council years).

The National Office and the National Divisions give members a say in national debates about safety, workplace laws, industry standards, skills and competences, investment in infrastructure and other important issues. They also bargain with employers that have a national footprint – like Pacific National and Aurizon.

» providing legal support for branches and divisions;

» running legal cases in the Fair Work Commission and other courts on matters of national significance;

» lobbying politicians on national issues;

» conducting research projects on industry-wide issues;

» making submissions to regulators, parliamentary inquiries and committees;

» coordinating National Executive and National Council meetings; and

» representing members on national bodies such as: TrackSafe,, Rail Industry Safety and Standards Board (RISSB) Standing Committees, and Australian Industry Standards (formerly the Transport and Logistics Skills Council)


» Locomotive Division

» Rail Operations Division

» Fleet Manufacture, Overhaul, Maintenance and Service Division

» Infrastructure Division

» Administrative, Supervisory, Technical and Professional Division

» Tram and Bus Division


» New South Wales

» Queensland

The roles of the National Office and National Divisions include:

» coordinating national enterprise agreements;

» running campaigns on national issues;

» South Australia/Northern Territory

» Tasmania

» Victoria

» Western Australia

Without an effective and united national union, rail, tram and bus industry workers would be left without a voice in these national discussions.with a history of fraudulent behaviour and defective work will undermine the reliability and quality of the railway itself

South Australia’s trams and trains are coming home

The South Australian Government has announced that the state’s privatised train and tram operations will be returned to public control, with all parties signing a deal that will see operational functions for Adelaide’s trains returned to public hands within two years.

The agreement will see train operator Keolis Downer Adelaide and tram operator Torrens Connect (AMO) hand back operational functions by January 2025 and July 2025 respectively. Under negotiated agreement, however, the private companies will continue to manage maintenance and infrastructure functions on the train and tram networks.

This is the first time in Australia that decision to privatised public transport service has been taken back by a State Government. The only other instances of privatised rail services going back into public hands in Australia are when National Express voluntarily handed the keys to V/Line back to the Victorian Government in 2002, and when the Tasmanian Government took back the state’s rail freight business back from Pacific National on 2009.

National Secretary Mark Diamond congratulated Premier Peter Malinauskas and Minister for Infrastructure and Transport Tom Koutsantonis for getting the deal done and delivering on a key election promise.

“Peter Malinauskas had the courage to promise to bring public transport back under public control, and Tom Koutsantonis had the smarts to make it happen.

“There is a very clear lesson here for other State and Territory Governments around Australia – reversing bad privatisation decisions can be done.”

SA/NT Branch Secretary Darren Phillips said RTBU members ran a long and fierce campaign against the privatisation of transport services by the former Liberal State Government, because they knew that privatisation

would be a dud deal for South Australians.

“I couldn’t be prouder of the be prouder of the way RTBU members stood up against the privatisation of their jobs,” Darren said.

“This result shows how workers, their unions and their communities can be a powerful force when they all work together in the public interest.:

Darren said reversing the privatisation of trams and trains would be good for workers, good for commuters and good for taxpayers.

“This decisions means taxpayers money that is budgeted for public transport will actually go into public transport - without a private company clipping the ticket on the way through.

“It means that the operator of our train and tram services will be directly accountable to the South Australian community - and to commuters - not to corporate shareholders.

“And it means that transport workers will be able to negotiate with an employer that cares about South

Australians, and cares about more than just maximising profits.

South Australian Transport Minister Tom Koutsantonis said essential public service belonged in public hands.

“Today’s outcome is not a reflection on the companies involved, but of our firm belief that public transport belongs to the public – it should be run for the benefit of all South Australians, rather than for private profit or in a bid to impose budget savings that never materialise,” he said.

“Today we have consigned this unnecessary privatisation to history.”

Darren Phillips said affected members would be given further detail about the transition back to public sector employment through Consultative Committee meetings with Keolis Downer and Torrens Connect.

“In the meantime, we’ll be seeking full briefings from the employers and the State Government, and will work to ensure that members are kept fully informed through the transition process,” Darren said.

“We will also continue advocating to see all workers on the passenger train and tram networks, including infrastructure and maintenance workers, are ultimately transferred back into the public sector.”



The RTBU has a long history of campaigning for social justice and the rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

So it’s no surprise to find the RTBU at the forefront of the ‘YES’ campaign for the upcoming referendum on recognising the original inhabitants of Australia in our national constitution. Assistant National Secretary Shayne Kummerfeld seconded the ACTU National Executive resolution to support the YES case in the referendum.

“Our history is rich and unique and begins with more than 65,000 years of continuous cultural connection to our land,” Shayne said.

“Yet our 122-year-old constitution still doesn’t recognise the Australians that

were here first - Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.”

The proposed constitutional change also locks in a new advisory body to represent Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, which has been dubbed ‘The Voice’.

“Our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander brothers and sisters are simply asking to have a say when politicians are making laws that directly affect them,” Shayne explained.

“It will be an advisory body only, and won’t have the power to make laws.

“Experience shows that when grassroots Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people can give advice to Governments about decisions that affect them, better decisions are made.

“It’s a modest change to the constitution that will make a practical

difference so we can move forward together.”

Shayne said the only way to amend the Constitution to recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders is by winning a ‘double majority’ in a Referendum.

“A double majority is the majority of voters across Australia and the majority of votes in the majority of states – so you need to get approval from four out of the six states.

“It is actually very difficult to win a referendum and get the ‘double majority’, so it is important that all union members get behind the campaign and show solidarity with the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.”

See Shayne’s video message about the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander referendum here: https://



You may have been approached by an independent bargaining agent promising to represent you in your Enterprise Agreement negotiations.

But beware, they may not have your best interests at heart, so think twice before you sign on the dotted line!

Under Australian workplace law, workers and employers are able to appoint their bargaining representative for proposed enterprise agreements. Negotiating Enterprise Agreements is, of course, core business for unions. If you are a member of the RTBU, then your union is your bargaining representative by default.

But occasionally individuals who are associated with your union pop up as bargaining agents. Sometimes they are simply touting for business by offering to represent workers in their EA negotiations.

Workers need to be aware that the use of these independent bargaining agents comes with significant risks – to both individual workers and to the power of workers collectively - as

they undermine our collective union strength.


You know the old saying ‘divide and conquer’?

In an enterprise bargaining negotiation, having all your workers united and on the same team gives those workers maximum power and industrial leverage. But if you divide the workers into different groups, then the power balance shifts back to the employers. The employer can ’divide and conquer’ by playing one group of representatives off against others. That’s why employers love it when there are independent bargaining agents at the table – it’s always better for them.


Independent bargaining agents often talk a big game, but they also tend to lack the detailed knowledge of our industries, which means they can get left behind in negotiations about technical aspects of your work.

They regularly rely on union negotiators to do the ‘heavy lifting’ on negotiating clauses about important

workplace issues, simply because they lack the qualifications and knowledge that’s needed.

This means that EAs negotiated by independent bargaining agents can contain clauses that overlook critical details and end up disadvantaging workers.


When unions are negotiating a deal with the employer, they can put that deal to members and get an answer – yes or no. But when there are multiple bargaining representatives involved, all seeking to get different clauses inserted into the agreement, finalising an agreement that best meets the needs of the workforce gets complicated.

If the bargaining representatives can’t come to an agreement between themselves, then negotiations can drag on and on – leaving workers waiting an unnecessary long time for their pay rise.


It gets even worse.

Research from the Centre for Future Work has shown that wage increases in


non-union EAs are consistently lower than for EAs negotiated with union involvement.

In fact, the research found that wage increases in non-union EAs approved in the private sector were, on average, 1-percentage-point lower than for union-covered agreements since 2010.


But not only are non-union negotiated Enterprise Agreements worse than

union-negotiated ones, they are worse for longer

The Centre for Future Work research showed non-union EAs tend to lock in those inferior wage outcomes for longer periods of time compared with union-covered EAs.

The average duration for non-union EAs in 2019 was 3.3 years, compared with 2.5 years for union EAs. In fact, approved non-union EAs have had longer average duration than union EAs every year since 2010. This indicates a clear employer preference for longer agreements to lock in (low) wage bills and reduce contract renewal costs.

Independent bargaining agents do not have these powers.

Full powers to represent workers under workplace laws

Represent workers from the whole sector they claim to be from

Enforce workers’ rights in the workplace

Can legally enter the workplace to assist members, hold discussions with employees, and inspect records relating to a workplace contravention

Legally entitled to represent workers in unfair dismissal proceedings or in Federal Court, as a matter of right

Transparently regulated by the Fair Work legislation to be democratic and financial accountable to members and report to members


Members need to be very careful when independent bargaining agents start sniffing around an Enterprise Agreement.

The best thing to do is simply to ignore them, and to stay strong with your union.

But if you do get talked into signing up with independent bargaining agents, then don’t worry – it can be fixed!

Under the Fair Work Act, the appointment of a bargaining representative can be revoked by a worker, but it must be done in writing. A copy of the revocation letter must be given to your letter, so they know that the change has been made.


Once an agreement is finalised, independent bargaining agents have very limited power to help workers.

In fact, under workplace laws, only registered unions:

» have the power to properly support you at work and enforce your rights if your boss does the wrong thing; and

» have the automatic legal right to represent you in workplace disputes, including at industrial tribunals and in the courts.

Unions Independent Bargaining Agents







Remember, independent bargaining agents come and go, but your Union is always there to back you up. And we’re always stronger when we’re together.


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Workers call on political hopefuls to build them here

Rail unions left NSW voters in no doubt where they stood on local manufacturing when they launched their Build Them Here campaign in the lead-up to the recent state election.

The Build Them Here campaign, supported by the RTBU and AMWU, was launched in the state seat of Penrith, in Sydney’s western suburbs, with Labor candidate Karen McKeown the first to sign the Candidate’s Pledge.

The Pledge asked all candidates to support building our public transport in NSW. This included:

» Committing to designing, building, and maintaining trains, buses, ferries and trams in NSW, and thus creating jobs for local workers;

» Supporting procurement policies that mandate the use of local content on government transport contracts, with preference given to local manufacturers, suppliers and service providers;

A hard-hitting campaign video featuring RTBU National Vice President Leanne Holmes and AMWU NSW/ ACT President Keith Lang was also released.

In the video, Leanne and Keith said the track record of overseas-built NSW public transport in NSW was embarrassing.

“Since the NSW Government started buying off-the-shelf transport from the lowest bidder we’ve seen huge cost blowouts, trains that are unsafe to operate, trams that crack, and ferries that can’t even handle Sydney Harbour


“Worst of all, we’ve seen thousands of good jobs go offshore,” Keith replied.

“Australian manufacturing workers are some of the best in the world and for decades workers in Sydney, the Hunter, the Illawarra and regions built the public transport that keeps NSW running.”

NSW Locomotive Division Secretary Farren Campbell said the campaign was launched in the seat of a senior Liberal Party MP Stuart Ayers.

“Stuart Ayres was a member of the Expenditure Review Committee, a government body that caused all kinds of issues in getting the [Korean-built] New Intercity Fleet retrofitted,” Farren said. “I can’t imagine him signing our pledge!”

Farren said RTBU members’ experiences with the New Intercity Fleet (NIF) over the past six years were typical.

“We had a train built overseas, not fit purpose, and with complete and utter isolation as far as the procurement and design process went,” he said.

“They were designed from the start for driver-only operations, and only by taking the Government and Transport For NSW to every available court could we finally get the truth out.

“Even then we had to leverage our industrial strength. It was only through the Enterprise Agreement process that we were able to take effective and strategic industrial action to get the safe outcomes members needed.”

Farren said the NIF project was ticked off by a British-based independent expert who had never set foot on the train.

But a subsequent RTBU report made a number of safety issues clear - including that the train cameras could not provide vision below 1.1m, so children and people in wheelchairs were invisible.

“Our members made it very clear that until that train was safe we were not going to turn a wheel – it could sit and rust to the rails as far as we were concerned.”

Farren said locally-built trains were safer and more reliable.

“The fact is that when you’re sourcing high-tech infrastructure like modern locomotives, train carriages and light rail vehicles from Australian manufacturers, you know what you’re getting. “Governments that source trains from overseas suppliers not only sacrifice local jobs, they potentially put lives at risk through lower safety standards.”



The NSW election has been won by the Australian Labor Party.

The new Government contains former RTBU NSW Branch Organiser Maryanne Stuart , who was elected as the Member for Heathcote, and former RTBU National Secretary Bob Nanva, who was elected to the Legislative Council.

Around 50 candidates signed the Build Them Here pledge over the course of the election campaign, while NSW Labor made a key election commitment to build new trains, trams, buses and ferries in NSW.

The new State Government has promised to begin the procurement process for the next set of trains to replace the ageing Tangara fleet in its first term, creating at least 1,000 secure, longterm jobs during the design and build phase, and many more in maintenance jobs over the design life of the new trains.


State government gets on board with bus safety

The Queensland Branch has had a big win on bus safety after the Queensland Government stumped up $61 million for a suite of security measures.

The deal includes:

» Retrofitting 180 buses with full protective screens and “camera mirrors” to deal with visibility issues, on top of an existing commitment to include screens on all new buses;

» Tripling the number of SNOs (Network Officers) from 34 to more than 100;

» Expanding the role of the state’s Transit Police to include buses.

RTBU Queensland Bus and Tram Division Secretary Tom Brown said the main area of concern was on the 100 and 110 routes in the Inala and Forest Lake area.

“The level of disruptions, and assaults and abuse against drivers went through the roof on a number of routes,” he said.

“They are by far our worst routes, and even with extra security the abuse was still happening.”

Tom said problems occurred at any time, but were especially bad from

Thursday night to Sunday night, and often involved drunk or drug-affected teens.

“They are using the bus service to go and do their deals, not paying, and once on the bus anything goes.

“If drivers recognise them – as many of the offenders are in gangs – and won’t take them, that doesn’t work as the bus ends up being pelted with rocks and bottles.

“And even with anti-shatter glass, when a bottle or brick hits it’s like a hand grenade.”

The issue came to a head at the Willawong depot, where a meeting of 80 drivers asked their WHS representative to issue their employer, Brisbane City Council, with a Provisional Improvement Notice (PIN).

“Drivers were angry and frightened, and the manager who attended the meeting was howled down,” Tom said.

“Until that PIN was sorted the drivers did not want to go through Inala, and wanted to stop short of the terminus - at Acacia Ridge on the 110, and Oxley on the 100.”

Tom said the campaign took less than a week.

When issued with a PIN, Brisbane City Council had eight days to respond with necessary safety improvements. It responded in three or four.

Despite being forced into action by the PIN, Brisbane City Council continued to fight tooth and nail against any longterm solutions to the problem.

But then the State Government stepped in with its package of measures.

“Council still had to sign off on the retrofitted screens, as that had to be done in their workshops, but they finally caved,” Tom said.

The extra security measures are already being implemented.

The state’s Railway Police have been rebranded as Transit Police with one unit of 20 officers now working exclusively on the Brisbane’s buses. Network Officers take six months to train, but that will see them eventually number more than 100.

And the biggest win – the bus safety screens – will eventually prove their worth across the city.

Tom said that’s because about 70 of the retrofitted 180 buses will be needed to cover the worst routes – the 100 and 110.

That means there will eventually be another 110 go on to other problem routes.

“We have a graph of our 10 worst routes, so we know exactly where these buses have to go.”


Transit officers on their way as bus safety crisis grows

Tasmanian bus drivers have won an important victory with the State Government committing to introduce Transit Officers on Metro bus services.

Tasmanian Minister for Infrastructure and Transport Michael Ferguson agreed to a ‘pilot’ of Transit Officers to improve safety and security on buses after the issue was discussed at a meeting of the new Safe Public Transport Working Group - which includes representatives of the RTBU.

“Our bus drivers and passengers deserve better, and we will progress an increased and visible presence of transit officers on buses who can respond to incidents when they occur, deter would-be offenders and fare evasion, direct passengers to leave if necessary, and issue infringement notices,” Mr Ferguson said.

“The transit officers will be equipped with body-worn cameras which can be valuable as a deterrence, as well as de-escalating incidents and evidence-gathering.”

Tasmanian Branch Secretary Ric Bean said the RTBU was now seeking more information about how many Transit Officers will be deployed, where they will deployed, and when.

“Tasmania is the only jurisdiction not to employ Transit Officers or their equivalents on the public transport network, so this is a great step forward,

The Safe Public Transport Working Group was formed after Ric, Bus Division Secretary Mark Dunsby, National Executive Director Stewart Prins and Organiser Byron Cubit met with Minister Ferguson to discuss the operational crisis at Metro Tasmania.

“Metro has been steadily losing bus drivers, and the situation is now so critical that it simply does not have enough drivers to deliver its timetabled services,” Ric said.

“We’re now regularly seeing around 100 services cancelled each day, and the community is fast losing confidence in Metro.

Ric said the staffing situation should have not come as a surprise to Metro management.

“The RTBU conducted a member survey back in 2022 that found the main reasons why bus drivers were leaving Metro were safety and wages.

“19 per cent of bus drivers reported being physically assaulted, 30 per cent reported being spat at or spat on, 68 per cent reported being threatened, and 98 per cent said they had been verbally abused.

“Alarmingly, the survey also revealed 50 per cent of bus drivers were either very likely or somewhat likely to resign from Metro in the near future.

“Metro management, however, dismissed our survey and ignored the obvious warning signs.

“History has shown that our warnings were spot on.”

Ric said the new Working Group would continue to look at other options for addressing violent and anti-social behaviour on buses.

In the meantime, Metro Tasmania has also agreed to form a separate working group to deal with the issue of protective screens for drivers, while negotiations for the next Enterprise Bargaining Agreement would also tackle the crucial issue of pay.

“When a newly appointed driver starts with Metro, they are paid only just higher than minimum wage,” Ric said.

“It is no wonder that many consider the risks associated with the role are simply not worth it.

“Recruitment has been so difficult that Metro has resorted to an Amway-style recruitment scheme - offering $50 for any staff member who recruits a friend or family member. Unsurprisingly, there haven’t been many takers of this offer to date.”

Ric said that in the past, problems like these have been ignored because politicians felt that Metro was not worth worrying about.

“Times have changed – traffic congestion is getting worse, and petrol prices have been going through the roof.

“There is now a growing recognition of the importance of public transport to mobility in Hobart and across the state.

“The onus is now on the State Government to show that it understands the importance of public transport too, be cause we need to get Tasmania’s public


Members rally around family after tragedy

West Australian RTBU members and the wider community have rallied to support a Perth family facing the ultimate tragedy after their toddler drowned in a neighbour’s backyard pool.

WA Branch Secretary Joshua Dekuyer said Stephen Powell, an RTBU member who works as a Transit Officer for the Public Transport Authority, and his wife Zahra faced the hardest week of their lives with grace, gratitude, resilience and strength, after their beautiful three-year-old son Isaac was taken from them in December.

“This was a truly terrible story,” Joshua said. “The entire union is heartbroken by Stephen and Zahra’s loss.

“But it was heartening to see RTBU members rally to help the family, through personal support, and by backing a GoFundMe page, which was also supported by the WA Branch and raised $50,000.”

The GoFundMe page was set up to pay for Isaac’s funeral and help his parents find a new home, as they will unlikely return to the Canning Vale residence due to the trauma of losing their son there.

Joshua says the devastated family is still coming to grips with their loss, but they hope that by sharing their experience it may help others avoid such a tragedy.

This has been a terrible year for drownings, with Royal Life Saving Australia reporting 339 drownings in Australia in 2021-22, while 90 people lost their lives in Australian

waterways and swimming pools over summer alone.

Stephen said Isaac was playing in the backyard of the home the family had just moved into days earlier when he managed to find his way into the neighbour’s property.

Stephen and Zahra were in the process of setting up the house when they realised he had vanished, and began desperately searching the surrounding streets for their son.

Isaac was found unresponsive in the neighbours’ pool.

Despite Zahra carrying out CPR before paramedics arrived and rushed him to Perth Children’s Hospital, he died five days later.

It is unclear if the pool fence gate was open or closed at the time.

Stephen has since begged homeowners and renters to check and maintain fences surrounding their pools and their property for the safety of children.

“He was just playing in the backyard and managed to find a hole in the fence,” the tearful dad said shortly after the tragedy.

He also flagged the need for at least one family member in every household to know CPR, as the residents who found Isaac did not know the life-saving procedure.

“I’m not saying it could’ve saved him, but it’s better than just doing nothing,” he said.

“If you have a pool, maintain your fences ... learn CPR ... anything is better than doing nothing.”




A South Australian member has taken the first steps in a campaign to provide proper trackside pathways on rail corridors in the Adelaide Hills.

Train driver Paul Hamilton, who drives for SCT-owned RailPro Services from Penfield, SA, fears a lack of trackside pathways puts drivers at risk, and could even lead to train runaways. And he is waging war with ARTC with a series of reports pointing out this is a very serious issue.

“It’s an issue that exists along the whole Adelaide Hills line, where there are no defined paths in the area,” Paul said.

“Drawings also don’t match reality, and they have ballasted over old paths that may have once been there.

“So it’s difficult to get to the back of the train if there is an incident.”

Paul’s reports are compiled from his and other drivers’ experiences on the line, and are backed by vivid pictures and diagrams that use ARTC’s own methodology.

In one report sent to ARTC he said he “would think a duty of care exists … to a greater level than it does presently.”

Paul explained that if a train coupling parts, or for some other reason a driver needs to leave the loco, the train must be secure so that it does not run away.

“There are time constraints,” he said. “We do an air test before departure that guarantees the brakes will stay on for an hour.

“But the situation could be very serious on a long train, especially if you run out of time and the brakes don’t hold.”

In one of his reports Paul noted that walking the track is also dangerous, with embankments, cuttings and bridges usually having no pathways and often featuring deep cuttings and very steep terrain.

“Ballast is unstable,” he wrote. “It has a sinking unstableness and a brittleness when not packed down. Ballast becomes an uneven surface when not packed. It is a contributor to soft tissue injuries from slips, trips or falls. The track corridor is (also) expected to be traversed by foot in all weather conditions.”

The problems with the condition of rail corridors mean that workers are being put in a position where they need to consider taking risks to get to where they need to be. Furthermore, tracksides are littered with hazards.

“There is brake rigging and brake blocks, bits of wagon laying in the high grass, snakes, potholes and even old station drains,” Paul said.

“Recently my mate had to carry a length of heavy chain and a knuckle

– weighing 20kg to 30kg – a couple of hundred metres.

“Even though that was on a level section, he was stumbling over rocks and uneven surfaces.

“Another mate took a photo of a bridge over a fairly large creek. It is on a high, steep embankment, and to get down you have to almost tumble down the side and then scramble up the other side to get back to your train.”

Paul said pathways were once a critical issue but “they’ve let it go”.

“My father was a guard, and pathways were an issue guards would push for when they’d have to change a staff or shunt in certain locations.

‘But a lot of that is gone, so a lot of the walking is gone, and unless you ‘come apart’ you are not out of the loco.”

As a result, track authorities are not paying attention.

Paul is locked in a battle with ARTC, but so far with little joy.

“They are only addressing the little issues, while the rest is ignored,” he said.

“But ARTC has asked for more details, so we’ve stirred them up a bit and are now considering getting come flyers out and mounting a wider campaign.

“It’s important, as I’m just one bloke who is doing something, but it makes you wonder what they are doing in other places like Inland Rail?”


Unity crucial in big year of EAs

Victorian Branch members are gearing up for a huge year of enterprise bargaining, with the Metro, Yarra Trams and V/Line Enterprise Agreements all up for renegotiation.

All three expire on June 30, and Victorian Branch Secretary Vik Sharma said job security, safety and conditions would be crucial to the eventual outcomes.

Vik said that with a raft of changes coming to Victorian public transport in the next five years it was no surprise that a survey of members last year identified job security as the number one issue.

“There are four major projects lined up during the life of the agreements.

“The Metro Tunnel will open, the Commonwealth Games will be delivered, Metro and Yarra Trams will run out of their contracts – so we will see bidding for who will run heavy and light rail in Victoria – and there will be a new ticketing system.

“Because these changes are coming we need to look at this bargaining round with a holistic view as to what is happening in the industry, and how we can capitalise on it and the billions of dollars of new investment it brings, to get the best outcome for members.”

Vik said the new ticketing system was typical of the challenges RTBU members would face.

“The system right now requires the commuter to buy an actual ticket from a vending machine or human,” he said. “The new system is similar to that in NSW and will use a bank card to travel.

“This will be an attack on jobs at stations, so there is a big question over what will happen to those who are now selling tickets.

“So we want a just transition, and if the changes come we need to re-imagine how those jobs will be done.

“What other work we can bring into our industry? And how else we can utilise those workers, to make sure we are running a public transport system where customers have humans to talk to and not just machines?”

Vik said the RTBU also wanted to tie companies up with obligations they could not simply run away from, and would be standing firm against job cuts.

“They will claim a need for forced redundancies, but if someone doesn’t want to go, they don’t go,” he said.

“We see rail jobs as a job for life; rail is a career not just a job, and that’s how it’s been for forever and a day.

“We can’t let companies aim to just make a profit and not care about people, having a short run of 10-15 years, making whatever money then can, then leaving it in ruins and destroying those jobs forever.”

With the soaring cost of living putting huge pressure on families and individuals, pay will be another big issue in all three EA negotiations.

“In previous negotiations we have not had worry as much about the cost of living, as interest rates and inflation have stayed low for the past 15 years or so since the GFC,” Vik said.

“But this is the bargaining round where everyone is hurting as prices are crazy, so the cost of living and pay is a huge concern that members have raised.”

Vik said delegates have met, and logs of claims have been endorsed. But he said unity among members would be critical to achieving decent outcomes in the EA negotiations.

“With so much at stake, it is essential that we learn from past mistakes, stick together and support each other through the negotiation process.

“Unity is strength, but a divided union is a weakened one.”

Vik said the recent announcement that the executive members of the Victorian Locomotive Division had applied to the Fair Work Commission to seek to withdraw the division from the RTBU, and set up a separate union, was extremely disappointing.

“The Fair Work case will be an unfortunate distraction from the real work of making sure members at Metro and V/Line get the best possible Enterprise Agreements.”



Transport unions from around the world met in Johannesburg, South Africa, during March for the largest global meeting of transport workers’ representatives from the rail, road and urban transport sectors.

The occasion was the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) Railways, Road and Urban Transport Conferences, with over 500 delegates from 90 countries and 185 national trade unions in attendance.

Unions discussed issues impacting transport workers around the world - from solidarity-based strategies to eliminate xenophobia in Southern African road transport, through to developing socially-just trade union approaches to combat the underlying causes of the industry’s current crises: chronic underinvestment, cuts to services, deregulation and privatisation.

ITF General Secretary Stephen Cotton said unions were developing transformative policies and programs to shift the balance of power from capital to workers in the road, rail and urban transport sectors.

“Building cooperation and unity between unions in road, rail and urban transport gives us the capacity and strength needed to lead the industrial and political changes that transport workers and our society need,” Stephen said.

“Worldwide, our societies were ravaged by Covid-19, which led not only to a continuing health crisis but also increased wealth inequality in and between countries.

“Now, in a post-pandemic phase where cost of living is spiralling out of control in many countries, workers and their unions are demanding that governments put workers’ and society’s demands first.”

ITF’s 2022 Global Poll showed the public overwhelmingly supports union demands on transport, with a larger

percentage believing governments are failing their citizens in handling transport issues generally.

RTBU Assistant National Secretary Shayne Kummerfeld led the RBTU delegation to the conferences. Shayne said the conferences passed important motions on:

» Defending transport workers’ jobs pay and conditions

» Improving long-distance passenger transport

» Winning greater investment in public transport and the need for public ownership

» Strengthening safety and health in public transport workplaces

» Ensuring the transport workers ‘get home safely’

» Expanding and investing in metro organising

» Demanding the electrification public transport workers want

» Driving LGBT+ equality in the public transport sector worldwide

» Disability equality in the railway sector worldwide

“There was a lot of interest in the way the RTBU has dealt with these issues in Australia,” Shayne said.

“For example, delegates were shown a video about our campaign to see the New Intercity Fleet trains in NSW retro-fitted to address a range of significant safety concerns.

“NSW Secretary Alex Claassens then gave a powerful speech about how the RTBU campaign won the day, and forced the NSW Government to fix the safety problems that workers had identified.

“It’s important for Australian workers to have a say in the way the global transport union movement operates, and how we can work together to leverage our global power.

“We can learn from the strategies that other unions are pursuing to achieve justice for their members, and it’s great to be able to able to share our successful strategies as well.”


Unions set up solidarity fund for earthquake survivors

An emergency fund to support transport workers and their unions in Türkiye and Syria in the wake of the devastating earthquakes has been launched by the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) and the European Transport Workers’ Federation (ETF).

ITF President Paddy Crumlin said workers across the globe should collectively support the incredible emergency response being coordinated by transport unions in the earthquake-devastated regions.

“The ITF Seafarers’ Trust has already coordinated with unions to get emergency relief into some of the hardest hit areas, but as people face the gargantuan task to rebuild their lives – and for many after the loss of loved ones – there is so much more that needs to be done.”

Two huge quakes struck in the early hours of Monday 6 February 2023, flattening thousands of buildings, crippling transport infrastructure and leaving tens of thousands of people dead, hundreds of thousands injured and homeless.

With the epicentre near Gaziantep in south-west Türkiye, the quakes impacted a wide area across the two

countries. The ITF and ETF immediately pledged to help.

ETF President Frank Moreels said an ITF/ETF Union Earthquake Solidarity Fund had been set up, with an initial contribution of $90,000 from the ITF. “Money raised will be used for immediate humanitarian support in Türkiye and Syria including food, blankets and logistics and support to address mid-term needs in both countries to strengthen unions capacity to rebuild and recover.”

For more information about the ITF/ETF Union Earthquake Solidarity Fund go to https://unionearthquake-solidarityfund.itfglobal. org


Tracksafe: “Rail R U OK?”

No qualifications needed to ask the question!

This year’s Rail R U OK? Day will take place on Thursday 27 April, and the theme of the event for 2023 is ‘No qualifications needed’.

TrackSAFE Foundation Executive Director Heather Neil said the theme had been chosen to highlight the fact that you don’t have to be an expert when someone says they’re not OK. “We’re really trying to empower workers in the rail industry to have the confidence to ask ‘are you OK?’, to know what to say when a workmate says they’re not OK, and provide guidance on how to keep the conversation on track,” Heather said.

“By knowing what to say, you can help a workmate feel supported and access help long before they’re in crisis, which can make a positive difference in their life.

“Rail R U OK? activities are an opportunity to show workmates that they can make a real difference to someone who’s having a tough time by having a meaningful conversation.”

There are a stack of resources available for members to help promote ‘Rail R U OK Day, along with a ‘Conversation Guide’ to help members keep the conversation going with a friend or colleague who may not be OK.

Go to https://tracksafefoundation. for more information.

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Stella Wickham, residing in the rural town of Blackwater in the central highlands region of Queensland, is a train driver for Aurizon and has recently been appointed as an RTBU Youth Delegate.

Recently Stella participated in a project with the Queensland Branch to mark International Women’s Day by raising understanding of the barriers women may face in their careers.

Stella says one of the first barriers she faced was being told that she was too petite and not fit enough to be a train driver.

This is just one version of the common ‘it’s a man’s job’ comments that women face when working in male dominated industries. Sadly, it’s often not just the men who make these comments.

In fact, being a driven and ambitious person, Stella said those comments just made her even more determined to prove people wrong.

Stella believes men can help promote gender equality in the workplace by educating themselves on the subtle things like unconscious bias.

“It’s important for men to be supportive by validating women’s opinions, instead of dismissing or downplaying a woman’s experience,” she says. “They can also speak up when hearing sexist remarks or jokes. Men can also help by advocating for policies promoting gender equality and be-

“We all need to stand together against any sexism within our

Stella says there are a number of benefits to having diverse workplaces with a healthy gender balance.

“It leads to a more harmonious work relationship

and benefits both the company and employee,” she says.

“It improves decision making and increases creative innovations when working with people of different cultures and backgrounds.

“It helps add empathy and understanding to certain tasks which we wouldn’t get without diversity, and promotes a healthy work life.”

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We all need to stand together against any sexism within our workforce.


RTBU Member Rick Sullivan has been a station-hand, explosives off-sider, deck-hand, border security officer, motorcycle racer, ultra-marathon runner and skydiver. He is also a bush poet and now a published children’s book author.

He recently spoke to WA Branch Secretary Josh Dekuyer about his first book, Buster and Us.

Josh: How did the idea to create a children’s book come about?

Rick: I love to write and I love my grandies, so writing a book for them was bound to happen. It’s a digression from my usual more real-life material, but it’s been rewarding and fun.

Josh: How did this particular story come to you?

Rick: I’ve often said my best stories seem to write themselves. The first line and image found their way into my head so I just picked up my keyboard and followed them; just like when one of your little grandchildren takes you by the hand and leads you along, excited to show you something they’ve discovered.

Josh: What do your grandkids think about the book?

Rick: They love the story and the way it turns out. They’ve been brought up to show kindness and respect to people and animals - particularly those who are vulnerable or struggling and need a bit of help – so they understand the message.

Josh: Why was it important for you to do this for them?

Rick: Most importantly because I love them, but publishing the book is also a way of showing them that we’re all capable of so much more if we believe in ourselves and reach further. Don’t be restricted by the usual accepted boundaries. Have a go. And keep going!

Josh: What was the process like from first deciding you wanted to do this to actually getting it published?

Rick: Years ago, I completed a self-publishing course at UWA, run by clinical psychologists Lesley and Michael Tunnecliffe. Following that, I published my first small book. It takes time and money, but it’s

not all that complex - just a series of common-sense steps and a bucketful of belief.

Josh: Would you consider doing another book?

Rick: That’s the plan. Over the years, I’ve written a lot of different material that I haven’t got around to publishing yet – autobiography, novel, fiction and non-fiction short stories, bush

cameraman / producer mate and I are working on some exciting things. Watch this space.

Josh: What would you say to other RTBU members thinking about doing something like this?

Rick: Get started. Now. Don’t put it off. Do it. Do it. Do it. Start. Start. Start. And keep going, going, going. Follow your dream. Believe in yourself.

German poet Goethe encompassed it perfectly when he wrote: ‘Whatever you can do, or believe you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.’

Josh: How can members buy a copy if they want one?

Rick: Anyone is more than welcome to contact me via email or phone and I’ll be very happy to arrange a signed copy. $10 plus $3.60 postage, with goodwill thrown in for free.

Josh: Anything else you’d like to add?

Rick: For sure. I’d like to share the first verse of a poem, written by Roman poet Horace. I love it and live by it, and it rests on a wall in my shed amongst the rusted souvenirs of a life I’m so extremely grateful for:

Happy the Man

Happy the man and happy he alone

He who can call today his own He who, secure within, can say Tomorrow, do thy worst. For I have lived today.

Now, whatever that dream is you have, lace the boots up a bit tighter and go after it.

To order your copy of Buster and Us send an email to Rick Sullivan And to learn more about Rick’s story catch the ‘Made in the Bush’ special from ABC’s Landline program at https://




National Secretary: Mark Diamond

Email: rtbu@rtbu Tel: 02 8203 6099


Branch Secretary: Alex Claassens



Branch Secretary: Vik Sharma


Tel: (03) 8630 9100


Branch Secretary: Peter Allen

Email: info@rtbu

Tel: (07) 3839 4988


Branch Secretary: Darren Phillips

Email: theteam@rtbusant

Tel: (08) 8243 2511 / Freecall 1800 801 063


Branch Secretary: Joshua Dekuyer


Tel: (08) 9225 6722


Branch Secretary: Ric Bean

Email: tasadmin@rtbu

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