Threat of Melbourne train strike as Metro deadlocked with staff over pay deal

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Melbourne’s rail network could grind to a halt if thousands of Metro Trains staff follow through on a threat to take strike action as part of pay negotiations.

The Rail, Tram and Bus Union (RTBU) said on Monday afternoon it had applied to the Fair Work Commission to hold a vote among members on taking protected industrial action, which could include strikes that last up to 48 hours.

Melbourne’s trains carry around 450,000 passengers every day.Credit: Darrian Traynor

Metro and the union have been negotiating a new enterprise bargaining agreement covering train drivers, station staff, authorised officers, signallers and other rail operations staff since March.

RTBU secretary Vik Sharma said the union had already rejected two “subpar” offers from Metro and would not accept any deal that did not meet their demands for better conditions.

“Metro is not listening to staff. Metro’s last offer fell far from the mark and has only agitated members across the network,” he said.

Sharma said the key issues for workers were job security, increased workloads and staffing levels amid major rail upgrades, including new ticketing and signalling systems, and the opening of the new Metro Tunnel in 2025.

“Metro fails to acknowledge the hard work of the workers who make these initiatives possible,” he said.

Melbourne’s trains carry around 450,000 passengers every day. The city narrowly avoided train strikes during the last round of wage negotiations in 2019, but the RTBU’s tram driver members held a series of disruptive four-hour stoppages.

The union’s rail members will vote on whether they support strikes of up to 48 hours, a ban on working overtime and a ban on wearing uniforms.

A successful vote does not mean industrial action will necessarily take place, but gives the union the option of taking that action if negotiations with Metro break down further.

Sharma said the union wanted to target Metro while minimising the impact on the travelling public by providing “sufficient notice” before taking strike action.

Metro has been contacted for comment.

More to come.

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