Rail strikes on hold as enterprise bargaining continues

Henry Wells, April 12, 2017

RAIL strikes which affected Victorian vessel accumulation in March, disrupting logistics in a year of record volumes, remain on hold as enterprise bargaining continues.

Australia’s largest private rail freight business, Pacific National, is in negotiations with the rail union on a new enterprise agreement for bulk grain in Victoria.

While the terms of the agreement were being negotiated in March, there had been train cancellations, believed to be around 10 in total, which caused short-term interruptions to grain rail movements to Victorian ports.

However, from 31 March the parties struck an interim arrangement to ensure normal operation for 11 days.  It was anticipated that by now movements had made up for the cancelled trains and would return to normal.

The negotiations are focused on replacing the previous agreement – the Pacific National Victorian Bulk Rail Enterprise Agreement 2014 – which nominally expired in December 2016.

The agreement covered terms of employment between Pacific National (PN) and train crew and terminal operators, represented by the Australian Rail, Tram and Bus Industry (RTBU) union.

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A PN spokesperson told Grain Central today the company had been in discussion with Victorian bulk employees since mid-last year, and was hopeful of a resolution.

RTBU acknowledged the ongoing negotiations, during which its members had been taking a range of protected industrial action.

It had cited, in a newsletter in March, fundamental differences such as the company’s proposal to reduce fortnightly guarantee hours from 80 to76, and a ‘Home Region’ proposal affecting sign-on time, location and travel to work.

The PN spokesperson said that discussions had moved on, that progress was being made, however the company would not disclose details commercial-in-confidence.

PN acknowledged the hard work of employees in recent months following the record harvest.

“The negotiations towards a new enterprise agreement aim for flexibility and efficiency.  We are about driving outcomes for customers,” the PN spokesperson said.





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