WA train drivers threaten to delay harvest

Train drivers demanding wage parity negotiate with QR National in the lead-up to a record grain harvest in Western Australia

WA train drivers threaten to delay harvest
WA train drivers threaten to delay harvest

By Anna Game-Lopata | September 16, 2011

Train drivers demanding wage parity are in negotiations with QR National in the lead-up to a record grain harvest in Western Australia.

With WA Rail, Tram and Bus Union (RTBU) Branch Secretary Phil Woodcock holed up in hospital for the week, the union was tight lipped today about the outcome of talks with the rail haulage provider earlier in the week.

However a close source reveals locomotive drivers have been taking industrial action "on and off" since June.

The source, who preferred not to be named, says the dispute is over wage parity and conditions as drivers in WA are reportedly paid less than their counterparts in Queensland.

Fair Work Australia confirms a private conference took place between QR National and the RTBU on Tuesday, but the outcome could not be revealed.

With another bumper crop expected this year, the efficient movement by rail to the ports will be critical.

According to Rail Express.com.au: "WA’s Geraldton zone alone is expected to deliver a record 3 million tonnes this year, with around 100,000 tonnes of grain to be shifted on rail between mid-October and the end of December".

The source tells SCR there is a small window of about five to six weeks prior to the beginning of the 2011-12 peak season, in which the RTBU and QR National could settle the dispute.

Both sides are hopeful this will occur so as not to impact the grain harvest.

A QR National spokesperson says following
the Fair Work Australia
consultation session with employees, the company has presented a new offer to bargaining representatives and the workforce.

"The new offer delivers strong outcomes and benefits for employees. We will not be commenting further while this offer is under consideration."

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