Fair Work Commission Orders NSW Train Workers To Cancel Monday's Strike [Updated]

Sydney, Australia - June 29, 2016: Sydney train, subway carriage interior

The Fair Work Commission has ordered NSW rail worker to cancel its strike this coming Monday due to endangerment to economy and safety. Here are the details.

Jonathan Hamberger, Senior Deputy President of the FWC said the strike would endanger the thousands of people who use the network to commute to work and to school.

It would also, he said, cause significant damage to the economy.

Any workers who decide to ignore the Fair Work Commission order face fines of up to $12,600 per person.

Earlier today we spoke to a Sydney Train driver to hear his perspective on the current situation.

Via the ABC


Comments

    I know Kotaku has been branching out into more "in real life" stuff ... but we're kind of pushing the boundaries of what makes Video Game News these days ...

      Some major incidents have such a major impact on everyone that I think it's worth everyone knowing. I won't make them a massive feature on the site or anything, but I do think there's justification for a quick thing saying "hey, this huge thing that has a massive impact on your day is on/not on/you get the idea".

        No I agree with BJ. This is State news so not sure what you mean by affecting "everyone". Pretty sure this is not something people in other States care about, or at least care about so much that the story needs to be published on this site.

          I like the occasional relevant news topic coming up on here, as I like to hear the reaction from other Kotaku commenters that are considerably less painful than the commenters on the major news sites.

          Overall this site has a group of regulars that are a great mix of respectful in tone and diverse in opinion. Even if someone does go overboard, they are usually the first person to admit it and apologise.

            Agree with @snowee. I'd like hearing the thoughts of fellow kotakuers on these topics.

          Exactly. I know Sydneysiders think the world ends at Penrith, but the train strike is really a long how to draw.

            I am a Sydneysider. I can say with absolute confidence that we believe the world ends well before Penrith... That shit is far.

        Plus, where else would we get to have a vigorous debate on social issues with fellow video game enthusiasts!?

        So why have you never covered the bus/train driver strikes we've had in SA over the years then? It's NSW news only, no need for it on a gaming site. News revolves around the eastern states enough as it is.

        Jeezus Alex ... I seriously thought Serrels had punched the wrong button, the error would be realised after I took the piss and this would be pulled down pretty quickly.

        I learned something today.

        With comments turned off on giz, where else are we going to bitch?

      If the train strike happens, you won't get your usual time on the train that you spending playing games.

      BJ, if you are so sensitive to the diversity of articles then how about you show Allure Media how it's done and run your own news site for a week?

        Awfully presumptuous to assume I don’t?

          No, I'm just telling you to put your money where your mouth is.

          The presumption is actually your own, not mine.

      I agree, stick to the games coverage, I say. Speaking of which, did you know that Hanzo Almost Had Zenyatta's Voice?

        I swear I’ve seen that daily for a month and have never clicked it. Probably sponsored post with a minimum click counter.

    Legitimate question, but isn't the right to strike an internationally UN recognised human right/law?

      From what I've read Australia is weird with this.. We have state laws that override right to protest. I think Victoria has some of the strongest anti protest laws

      Yeap. They cannot just call off the strike without putting discussions of the strike on the table to get a resolution.

      There's protesting, and then there's plunging the entire city of Sydney into chaos, causing millions of dollars of economic loss to businesses (including small businesses). Nothing to stop them protesting in a different manner.

        And what other methods are there exactly to get their point across other than refusing to operate the trains?

          They should play the classic Darude song, Sandstorm on repeat over the PA, they'll get their demands within the hour

            That would cause another form of Chaos for Sydney.

          they could just run the trains really slow... I think that would be worse than not at all

          Oh I don't know... Operate everything as per normal but leave all boom gates up and switch of all opal machines? Make the government lose money but not punish the public?

        @Zambayoshi Imagine the chaos when a train driver who hasn't had a day off in 3 weeks because they are not allowed to refuse overtime any more falls asleep at the controls and kills 500 people. That's what the strike is about.

          But if he gets paid more he won't. Got it.

            If Sydney Rail stops losing workers to Queensland & Victoria because they start paying the market rate for workers, less drivers will be fatigued as as they don't have to work overtime everyday to keep an unworkable timetable running.

              It's also the freight companies they're losing drivers to. Longhaul traindrivers get paid a ludicrous amount compared to the guys in Sydney. Apparently freight is more valuable than Sydney commuters heading to the economic hub of the state.

          Hey, I'm not against the overtime ban, which protests against the imposition of the new timetable.

          He could refuse over time and if he is sacked that's unfair dismissal.
          Trains also have dead man switches.

      The workers will probably ignore the FWC and strike anyway, but since the FWC has stepped in they will now be breaking the law by doing so. It probably won't stop them though.

        The Overtime ban hits about 30% of services on the network. Its probably enough to get the point across.

        If anything they may get support from other unions which could lead to all the country's transport industries shutting down for a day.

      Yep, and the ILO has spent about 30 years telling the Australian Government to respect that right.

      We pay about as much attention as when the UN tells us to stop putting refugees in offshore concentration camps. Human rights aren't our strong suit.

        Bingo.

        It seems being a UN member means not following the protocols, but condemning other counties for doing the same.

      sort of, it's not as cut and dry like other recognised rights.

      Article 8 of the Covenant states that States Parties to the present Covenant are obliged to provide "the right to strike if exercised according to the laws of each
      particular state"3 giving the opportunity of States Parties to the Covenant by law to limit the right to
      strike of the employees in the armed forces, police and bodies of state administration.4

      http://eprints.ugd.edu.mk/7401/1/The%20Right%20to%20strike%20%25281%2529.pdf

      International law is mostly pointless because in most cases there is no one to enforce it. When you see war crime trials in the Hague that is one of the rare cases where there is someone backing international law.

      In Australia there are laws that dictate rights of protest. For example, unions are no longer able to strike over environmental considerations. There was a time when workers/unions if they felt the environment was worth defending they would go on strike (called a green ban) - this turned out to be very effective. So effective that companies lobbied the government to put an end to such practice and so laws were passed to prevent such strikes and so ended the time of green bans in Australia.

      Yes. Striking is by far the most effective way for disgruntled workers to push their agenda, and banning that right makes the power unbalance between workers and the government much greater. Since it's inconvenient for otherwise disinterested individuals, their facile, selfish opinion is that it would be better if the strike didn't happen, because they don't consider what happens long-term if political flunkies get to pick and choose who gets to strike.

    Good to see that this madness will not be permitted to proceed.

      So you're in favour of massively fatigued workers being responsible for hundreds of tonnes of speeding metal filled with people?

        I'm sure he's not in favour of that.

        I'm sure he's in favour of the government making changes only once a train actually crashes as a result of fatigue, instead of some fears of something happening. And even then, only after a 2yr-long inquiry attributes the fatigue to systemic reliance on overtime as part of the business-as-usual operations, instead of an isolated incident of operator error. And even then, not if the opposition suggests the changes first, turning the issue into a political football drawn across party lines, which ensures that nothing can actually happen as a result of the report, because the government is ideaologically-opposed to agreeing with the opposition on anything, no matter how sensible. So government-instigated changes will only take effect after a change of government.

        THAT'S how productive change happens according to this guy - not through industrial action seeking fair and reasonable terms.

        Driverless trains would solve that problem.

          I'm sure they would.. but when will Sydney get all driverless trains, 2030? Probably about the same time as we are all travelling in driverless cars.

    Glad to see the government reinforcing the sheer powerless of workers to do anything other than take what they're given and like it.

    A 'right to strike' isn't much of a right if you're only allowed to do it when it won't inconvenience anyone. I mean, that might actually make the action fulfil its fucking purpose, and we can't have that. Symbolic, easily-ignored gestures only, please.

    I'm utterly disgusted by the government and the falsely-named 'fair' work commission on this. Not noted in this article: from tonight on, drivers are also no longer allowed to turn down overtime, either.

      People are going to die over this unfortunately. And the ones responsible for this decision will point the finger of blame everywhere except at themselves.

      If true, I'm disgusted to my core to hear that drivers can't refuse overtime. If it's not in the original contract, they shouldn't be able to legally force you to do it.

        My understanding is that technically they're not allowed to cite 'industrial action' as their reason for turning down overtime. There may yet still be other reasons they can turn it down, but at that point, it's essentially forcing them to lie. I'm not aware if 'because I don't feel like it,' as a reason would put them up for discipinary action.

      I agree in principle, especially for train services, but the reason there are some legislative limits on strikes is to protect the public. I work in emergency services and in my state we explicitly can't strike because it's withholding an essential service from the public. Can you imagine if you called 000 and were told "Due to industrial action over officer fatigue, you won't be getting an ambulance today"?

      Again, different case because it's trains and not life and death, but there's a reason behind some of this legislation.

        I definitely understand the 'life and death' for emergency services. I don't quite so much understand that when there is not only alternate private transport, but also alternate public transport.

        Yes, many will be inconvenienced, but it is a severe stretch to say that with appropriate notice and planning, a rail strike for 24hrs would put the public at that kind of risk.

        That's being sympathetic to the rules. Another part of me wonders. If rail is such a vital service, maybe it should be funded, maintained, and respected as if it were a vital service.

          Yeah, I don't know what kind of legal gymnastics they managed to pull to convince the commissioner that stopping train services would 'endanger' anyone, but that was somehow the justification behind denying them the ability to strike and to my mind it's complete bullshit.

          The only reason I can think is 'oh no what if Surgeon Bob can't get to the hospital because the trains are down' but laying that blame on the rail network is nonsense. Anyone conducting life-risk work like that either has an alternate means of transport for when the rail network is delayed or down for technical reasons and if they don't that's negligence on their part. It's not the rail network's responsibility to shoulder that responsibility.

            Apparently the voting was done incorrectly usually a 4-6 week period one had to consider a proposal, that proposal must be either sent to or freely available for all employees and then your vote must be given in writing. Apparently they were just sent a text message with bimrief wording and told to answer asap.

          I know where you're coming from and as I said, different story because this is only about trains. I was just commenting on some of the blanket statements about how everyone should have the right to strike and how governments are evil for legislating otherwise. Didn't suggest that I think forcing these guys back to work is a good idea.

          Don't be so quick to assume that your "vital services" are all well funded though...

      Not true. Workers always have the right to refuse unreasonable overtime (for example, based on safety issues). The employer may have the right to demand reasonable overtime be worked. What is reasonable or not is up to the Fair Work Commission to decide. If a train driver refused overtime on the grounds that he or she was feeling to tired to operate the machinery safely, that is a valid reason to refuse.

        That would seem sensible. Like I said above, citing 'industrial acton' as their reason for turning it down is the only thing that's been banned, and what I don't know is whether they'll accept other excuses or try to claim that those are all lies to cover up their true intention of industrial action.

        Looking forward to seeing how that works out for the next six weeks of banned industrial action.

    What are the legal ramifications if workers go ahead with the strike regardless?

      Jail and massive fines for union organisers and the workers themselves. IIRC the fines can be up to $10,000 for individual workers. The system is cooked.

        So...if ALL the workers still striked on Monday, and none of them cared about being fined or jailed, then what happens? You can't exactly force them to drive the trains at gunpoint...or could you?

          Well, not at gunpoint. But definitely at jailpoint. There's probably a point where enough people strike that the government decides not to enforce fines, but it's a high-risk play by the drivers and the union.

    This is appaling and pathetic honestly... how can they call themselves the "Fair Work" commission if they are ordering people to work under extremely unfair conditions?
    I use these train every day and i rely on them for my livelyhood but i am in support of this strike. I dont want underpaid and overtired people running this network. I dont want to die on my way to work because some fat cat wants to keep lining their pockets...

      just remember this is the same fair work commission that was set up by labour and staffed by ex union leaders that also figured that we should cut penalty rates for retail workers below level 3 ( coffee shop workers were exempt iirc)

    Couldn't they all just call in sick citing stress and get doctors certificates to back it up?

    Shouldn't they strike tomorrow then, as its a public holiday anyway?
    Sure it'll still suck for commuters, but it shouldn't affect many businesses or 'the economy'. Seems like the only compromise to me.

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