Labor sits on fence over Aurizon industrial action

DESPITE speculation over its strong involvement with unions during the election campaign, the Labor Government has not made it clear where it stands on a dispute between coal transport company Aurizon and its field of angry workers and union members.

Rail, Tram and Bus Union members stopped work for 24 hours yesterday at depots near Mackay, following disputes between Aurizon over workers' agreements.

The Australian Federation Union of Locomotive Employees also stopped work at freight depots including Rockhampton, Emerald, Maryborough, Mackay, Toowoomba and Goondiwindi yesterday.

The workers say they have been trying to negotiate with Aurizon for 18 months over a new agreement.

RTBU Queensland branch president Bruce Mackie said workers faced unfair conditions that would affect their home life. He said workers would be given as little as 24 hours notice for fluctuating start times on shifts.

But an Aurizon spokesman said similar agreements to change rostering and work practices had been signed off by unions in Queensland for Pacific National and BMA Rail.

He also said current workplace agreements left Aurizon in a less competitive position.

Treasurer Curtis Pitt said the matter was going through the National Workplace Relations system and a legal process.

"The Aurizon industrial dispute is a result of unresolved enterprise bargaining negotiations between Aurizon, which is a private sector company, and its employees' representatives," he said.

"We will continue to monitor developments."

The RTBU was expected to facilitate more industrial action later this week, including at the Callemondah depot near Gladstone and the Bluff depot, near Blackwater.

But the RTBU withdrew its planned action yesterday, saying negotiations with Aurizon at the weekend had made progress, particularly over rostering principles, transfers, shift length, car driving arrangements and medical proposals.

An Aurizon spokesman said the company continues to bargain in good faith with all rail unions for new enterprise agreements.

- APN NEWSDESK



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