Rail Tram and Bus Union Queensland Branch
 
 
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Proposed Termination of Aurizon Agreements

I refer members to the RTBU Circular dated 12/5/2014 in which I advised of the application submitted by Aurizon to the Fair Work Commission to terminate all the existing Aurizon Agreements. I remind members that whilst the Agreements had an expiry date of 31 December 2013, all provisions contained in an Agreement remain in place until a new Agreement is secured. This is why Aurizon is attempting to terminate the Agreements.

The substance of the application to terminate the Agreement in simple terms relates to the fact that they allege that the conditions contained in the Agreement were for all intents and purposes to facilitate the transfer of employees from the public sector to the private sector when the sale of QRN occurred.

The Directions hearing occurred at the Fair Work Commission on Friday, 16 May 2014. However, at the Fair Work on 16 May, Aurizon went one further by seeking the Fair Work Commission to seek leave from the President of Fair Work to have a principle relating to the termination of the Agreements considered by a full bench.

However, no decision was made by Fair Work at this hearing but the Fair Work Commissioner advised that she would provide a response in respect of this case later this week.

Fair Work Commission issued a Statement this afternoon (23 May, 2014) advising they would not immediately address the Direction issues the initial application to terminate the Agreements.

In todayís Fair Work Statement, the Fair Work Commissioner, hearing the matter, advising that the referral to the full bench application and paperwork has been provided to the Fair Work President and that the President would list the matter for mention in the near future.

The Commissioner determined not to progress with the rest of Aurizonís claim until after the President had convened the hearing for mention. However, the Commission did determine that the parties should prepare for a hearing in the future which included providing responses to the:

filing issue raised by The Australian Rail, Tram & Bus Industry Union (RTBU);
timetable for directions;
notification if you wish to be heard in relation to the matter; and
a number of other administrative requirements for such a mention (directions hearing).

Quite frankly all appearances are that this is the direction Aurizon has been heading for some time and there are some questions that are valid to be raised about the commitment of Aurizon to reach agreed outcomes with respect of the Enterprise Agreements in question.

I have to say that I am somewhat disappointed to learn that at some of the briefing sessions provided by Aurizon Management representatives indicated that part of the reason for the application was to get the Unionís back to negotiations.

This is quite outrageous not least because the RTBU had written to Aurizon the previous week seeking for Aurizon to return to the table and continue with the negotiations to try and reach Agreements.

It is interesting that Aurizonís response to that proposal was received some hours after the applications to terminate the Agreements had been submitted on the Monday, advising that they were prepared to meet on the Tuesday with the RTBU but would not be available until 4pm.

Quite frankly, the RTBU considers the contempt that has been displayed by Aurizon towards its employees by the submission of these applications is quite amazing. The Union has made it clear to Aurizon that we are prepared to recommence negotiations in another serious attempt to try and resolve all issues. Their filing of the applications meant that before we could have further negotiations with Aurizon, we needed to consult with members.

A series of meetings has been arranged around the State over the next two weeks.

The RTBU both at a State and National level consider that the potential implications of the applications should they be successful could have an impact not just within Aurizon but across all the rail industry and potentially industry as a whole. We understand the chance of Aurizon being successful in their applications is highly unlikely, but we arenít for taking chances on such an important matter.

The principle of conditions remaining in place until a new agreement has been secured is key to protecting workers; otherwise this could have a significant attack on their wages and conditions.

The RTBU, as a National Union, in conjunction with the Queensland Branch, intend to pursue this matter vigorously. The issues relating to the applications for termination of agreements are currently in the hands of our National legal team who will be arranging for Legal counsel to be briefed to protect the interests of RTBU Aurizon members.

In the meantime, the RTBU is quite prepared to endeavour to reach agreement with Aurizon but as mentioned earlier, we will in the first stage take advice from members. I understand that some other Unions in the rail industry sought a meeting with Aurizon after these Applications were submitted. That meeting occurred yesterday but the report from these Unions to our Industrial staff is that no progress of any significance has occurred.

You can be assured that the RTBU will continue to take all the necessary steps to protect the interests of our members regardless what tactics are pursued by Aurizon. I will keep members advised on all developments as they occur.

Unity is Strength

Owen Doogan
State Secretary
Qld Branch