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The Future of the RTBU

The union has been pushing for a broader transport industry union since the RTBU was formed, and has negotiated a federation of transport unions with the Transport Workers Union, which covers urban and long-distance truck drivers, and private sector bus operators.

In the long term, a transport industry union could unite maritime, road, air and rail workers.

The RTBU is particularly concerned at the lack of unionisation among long-distance road transport drivers, where exploitation and manipulation by the freight forwarders is the order of the day. The 'Trucks of Shame' on the highways are a threat to the wages and conditions of all transport workers.

The RTBU itself has some opportunities for expansion where new heavy rail services are proposed, such as the expansions of urban rail systems in Sydney, Brisbane and Perth, new tram links in Sydney and Melbourne, and expansion of government bus services in Sydney.

Creation of Pacific National

The RTBU faces a major challenge in 2002-03 because of the privatisation of the NSW FreightCorp and the National Rail Corporation, in February 2002. The two companies were sold jointly by the NSW Labor government and the Coalition Federal government, to Pacific National, a company owned 50/50 by Toll Holdings and Patrick Stevedoring.

This merger creates Australia's biggest and most modern freight railway, and the only one with the capacity to shift a signficant volume of freight from trucks to trains. Toll Holdings is Australia's biggest road freight forwarder. However, this important potential to expand rail, reduce the pressure on highways and improve the environment, will not happen until significant funds are invested in the interstate rail network, particularly the Melbourne - Sydney - Brisbane corridors.

Pacific National is shaping up to be an aggressive employer on the industrial relations front. The RTBU is working hard to develop united workplace structures in the new company, to prepare for enterprise bargaining in relation to FreightCorp workers from July 2002, and for National Rail workers from February 2003. The RTBU's goal is one union-negotiated Enterprise Agreement for all Pacific National employees from February 2003.

All Pacific National employees covered by the existing enterprise agreements were given 3-year job security guarantees by the NSW government, an important union gain in the privatisation process.

The immediate policy environment for public transport is poor, with state governments pursuing the hopeless expansion of urban freeways and tollways, and both the Howard Coalition government and federal Labor abandoning any responsibility for urban public transport.

However, there is a powerful world-wide trend away from freeways and back to tram and heavy rail investments in urban areas and for inter-urban tasks.

The RTBU cooperates with community-based organisations, with urban planning academics, and pro-public transport politicians to encourage and develop that movement in Australia.

Click on a State.

RTBU-PacNat 2009 EBA Campaign


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