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NZCTU states case for fair treatment of train staff

Press Release – New Zealand Council of Trade Unions
The New Zealand Council of Trade Unions said today that people working in Wellington are showing support for safe public transport and fair treatment of train staff.

President Richard Wagstaff said that union members affected by today’s industrial action on Wellington’s rail lines are calling on the multinational companies who run the train services and the Regional Council to act responsibly and prevent further disruption.

“There are two simple solutions to get Wellington’s transport network back up and running” Mr Wagstaff said.

“Transdev and Hyundai Rotem can put the needs of families and businesses who rely on our trains ahead of trying to juice extra profit off ratepayers. And the Regional Council can make sure safe staffing levels and decent employment aren’t optional extras for multinational companies looking to make a buck from vital public services.”

“When Transdev and Hyundai Rotem took over these services they agreed to maintain conditions. Now these same companies are trying to force the people working on our rail networks to accept lower pay on weekends, to pay for medical certificates on demand by the employer, to have reduced injury recovery support and to work public holidays without even being asked.

“Cutting trained staff could compromise safety for commuters, and union members believe safety is paramount. It’s no wonder train staff are taking action to preserve decent jobs and quality train services. The company’s’ undermining of agreed local job conditions isn’t acceptable to the Wellingtonians who pay for the service and ride the trains” he said.

Press release from Unions Wellington
Since news of strike action on Wellington’s trains went public, there has been an outpouring of support for rail workers from commuters. The local union affiliates council, Unions Wellington, put out an appeal for solidarity on Tuesday night at 6:30pm. The response was electric. Over $500 has been donated, dozens of messages of support have been sent in, and the Facebook post has been shared more than 130 times.

“The response has been amazing,” says Unions Wellington Convenor Ben Peterson.

“Transdev and the Regional Council are trying to play commuters off against railway staff, but it clearly isn’t working. Wellingtonians are making financial donations and sending moral support to the striking workers because they understand this is a brave decision taken as a last resort.”

Despite the Regional Council’s attempt to distance itself from the dispute, Mr Peterson notes that they are ultimately responsible for the actions of their contractors.

“We urge anyone inconvenienced by Thursday’s strike to call the regional council, and insist they pressure Transdev to offer a fair deal to staff members. Ultimately, the buck stops with the Regional Council.”

Unions Wellington activists are preparing for a strong campaign in defence of workers’ rights in the days ahead.

“This is just our initial response,” says Mr Peterson. “If this becomes a prolonged dispute we will take further steps.”

Press release from PSA
The Public Service Association Te Pūkenga Here Tikanga Mahi has sent a message of support to the Rail Maritime and Transport Union ahead of industrial action in Wellington.

PSA National Secretaries Glenn Barclay and Erin Polaczuk have told RMTU’s general secretary Wayne Butson that the PSA supports the strike.

“Our members in Wellington will be affected by the strike but I am sure that they understand the position that the RMTU and its members have been put in,” Mr Barclay and Ms Polaczuk say. “We know unions are reluctant to take industrial action and we know this will have been a last resort for the RMTU.”

The PSA has asked the State Services Commission to encourage public sector employers to be constructive and understanding of the problems some employees may face. “We know that this dispute is part of a wider problem of competitive tendering arising from the last government’s Public Transport Operating Model.

“That makes public transport workers’ pay and conditions vulnerable to this kind of pressure.”

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