Premier quashes strike fears

Daniel Andrews believes the industrial stoush at the Pakenham East depot will be resolved.

By Rowan Forster

Premier Daniel Andrews is adamant that an industrial stoush between the state’s rail union and the operator of the Pakenham East stabling yard will not derail the rollout of high-capacity trains.

It comes after Victoria’s first new train was transported from Newport to Pakenham East – marking the beginning of the public transport overhaul.

During a tour of the Oakview Lane facility, Mr Andrews admitted that the Rail, Tram and Bus Union have still not reached an agreement with Downer Group.

When asked if the issue could affect the rollout, the Premier replied: “I don’t think so.”

“Whilst that might not be finalised yet I’m pretty confident we’ll get there soon,” Mr Andrews added.

“There will sometimes be points of disagreement but we always work through those to make sure we have got the best set of arrangements.”

Under a proposed EBA be implemented at the Pakenham East maintenance depot, non-qualified drivers would be obligated to shift the carriages from the stabling yard and onto the rail network.

The RTBU have previously threatened to take the matter to the Fair Work Commission, potentially disrupting progress at the Pakenham East depot.

Victorian Secretary Luba Grigorovitch said the company’s attempt to force electricians and tradies to drive trains out of the yard was “disturbing”.

“Downer have taken an axe to the working standards of rail workers, attacking long-standing safety practices, stripping roster security, leave provisions and slashing penalty rates,” he said.

“The RTBU will fight tooth and nail to ensure that no worker is disadvantaged in the maintenance of new trains.

“Downer EDI’s attempts to divide their workforce and undermine conditions will open the floodgates to poorer standards and ongoing complications.”

The Premier spruiked the safety record across Victoria’s major transport infrastructure projects.

“There have literally been hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of hours of work done to get us to this point,” he said.

“There is almost an impeccable safety record, whether it is the construction of this depot or the high capacity Metro train project.

“That doesn’t happen because you set and forget, it’s because there’s a proper process, a partnership with the workforce, and unions are a very important part of that.”

Coinciding with the decision to have unqualified drivers transfer the carriages, it is understood the high-capacity trains will include a number of “semi-automated” features.

These functions, that are currently the exclusive preserve of qualified train drivers, include turnbacks, train preparation and stabling.

Under the current timeline, new trains are set to begin deployment on the Pakenham line in mid-2019.

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