Auckland Rail Industrial Action

Written By: - Date published: 12:01 pm, February 26th, 2018 - 50 comments
Categories: health and safety, Unions, workers' rights - Tags:

Thanks to Warren Doney for referring to this in open mike this morning.  The importance of the rail system to Auckland is being shown because limited industrial action (working to rule) is resulting in major traffic congestion.

As he points out we are only getting one side of the story from MSM.  Auckland Transport is trying to save money by cutting costs and the MTU considers that there are safety issues.

Here is a media release put out by the MTU.

Auckland rail workers refuse overtime due to safety concerns

Auckland rail workers have overwhelmingly voted to take industrial action as their employer insists on cutting staff on commuter trains.

Beginning tomorrow, rail workers who are members of the RMTU will take a ban on overtime.

“Transdev and Auckland Transport aren’t budging on driver-only operation, which will severely compromise passenger safety,” says John Kerr, Rail and Maritime Transport Union organiser.

“This plan will make locomotive engineers – the people driving the trains –responsible for passenger assistance and security. This isn’t safe, and rail workers won’t put their passengers at risk like this.”

The workers have been in collective bargaining with French-owned multinational Transdev, since May. Auckland Transport is involved in the negotiations, but is also pushing the driver-only model.

However, preliminary results from a survey by the Public Transport Users Association have revealed nearly all passengers support keeping safety critical staff on trains.

“Train managers are the first responders in medical emergencies; they ensure all passengers, including those with disabilities, can safely board and disembark; they’re a deterrent to anti-social behaviour. With train managers on every train, the public can feel safe knowing a skilled, uniformed member of staff is never far away,” says John Kerr.
“An overtime ban will affect services, so we hope management will start listening.

“We issued notice of the ban on Saturday afternoon and AT immediately
announced a reduced train timetable. Our members don’t want to inconvenience the public, and we know they support us in not compromising their safety, so we’re calling on AT and Transdev to resolve this dispute.”

“We had a positive meeting with both AT and Transdev on Friday and have another scheduled for next Wednesday. If we make progress we can call off the overtime ban, if not our members are also willing to take full-day strikes.”

“We call on Auckland Council and central government to step in and tell Transdev to keep our passenger trains safe.”

ENDS

For more information contact:

John Kerr
Organiser
Rail and Maritime Transport Union
Mobile: 027 246 4941

 

50 comments on “Auckland Rail Industrial Action”

  1. MG 1

    A couple of points (as a train commuter):
    1. How do other metro systems who don’t have train managers on board manage?
    2. Given that there was a ‘positive meeting’ on Friday, why continue with the work to rule and inconvenience thousands of passengers in a month that is always very busy with University returning etc?

    • Sacha 1.1

      As others have pointed out over on the main transport blog, it is also the period when people must respond to the Census about their travel patterns, which affects the following 5 years of policy and funding decisions. Genius timing.

      Full post and discussion: https://www.greaterauckland.org.nz/2018/02/25/trains-get-whole-lot-crowded/

    • Andrea 1.2

      How do the passengers on other metros manage when there is no ‘train manager’ and some lout gets frisky?

      As a past train user there is something reassuring about knowing someone offical will be coming through at frequent enough intervals – especially late at night.

      ” and inconvenience thousands of passengers in a month that is always very busy with University returning” Well, I don’t know why but this sounds so much like “our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and families but now is not the time for a discussion on such a sensitive topic”. Just does, I guess.

      Perhaps it would be better to wait out the year with futile discussions until May and hope the Goodwill Fairy comes by with a solution, eh?

    • One Anonymous Bloke 1.3

      Transdev are really screwing you around. Make sure you express solidarity with their employees and try your best not to be a scab, eh.

    • mpledger 1.4

      Last time this came up with examples, I went and looked at wikipedia and saw that most of those metro systems don’t have one person running the train. They might not have a “train manager” but they have something else of an equivalent nature.

      In America, they have dedicated transit police to monitor the safety of passengers – the railway company pays for it.

    • Stuart Munro 1.5

      In Seoul there are a couple of people at each station who handle things. If there’s a problem you phone the prominently displayed number and there’ll be someone on board at the next stop. But it basically never happens – you get the odd drunk, but they rarely make trouble.

  2. Sacha 2

    The RMTU really needs some help with their comms. That media release is still not visible on their website. This page has lots of relevant but undigested information about their campaign: http://www.rmtunion.org.nz/articles/article-campaigns.php

  3. patricia bremner 3

    These workers need a safe work place. Passengers do also. They have been negotiating since MAY!! How much longer do the employers need?

    Other countries have a variety of checks and fines for infringements. We should trial some and keep the status quo “till a way forward is found.

    A foreign owner needs to consider NZ passengers more.

  4. Carolyn_Nth 4

    I wonder if any of AT management travel regularly on trains?

    I’d suggest giving it a go during the school run times on the Western line. Sometimes it seems like party time – very noisy, with secondary students from diverse schools all talking, joking, and playing about in a very crowded carriage.

    And then, at other times, there can be anti-social behaviour so it is very important to have AT staff in the carriages. I’d not travel by train at night without them.

    If the private train company can’t do it, then it should be transferred to a public sector operator that is not for profit.

    • adam 4.1

      The executive team at AT have a private fleet of cars. Some have suggested that it is so they don’t have to travel with any of the lower classes. Others, that they don’t really know/care what they are doing – as long as they get a car and a parking spot with their job.

  5. Jingyang 5

    I think the RMTU aren’t doing themselves a favor by concentrating exclusively on safety issues in their communications.
    The train manager positions as they stand are redundant – driver only trains won’t need TMs per se. However, they will need Transport Officers with greater powers and the TMs have been offered these positions and necessary training – they’ve also been offered training to become train drivers.
    But, and this is a very bloody big BUT, the pay for TO’s is LOWER, with greater responsibilities – including possibly putting themselves in harm’s way dealing with ropey passengers – and, Transdev are keen on the TOs not being union members either.
    As far as current working conditions go – if a mere overtime ban means that peak hour train movements are effectively halved, then it points to piss poor training and hiring and employment practices by Transdev that have left them reliant on overworking existing employees.
    Of course at the bottom of it is AT expecting a 5 star rail network whilst trying to only pay for a 3 star network provided by a foreign multinational whose need for shareholder profit means we get a 2 star network in practice.

    • Carolyn_Nth 5.1

      I’m not sure of the over time ban meant services should be halved. That was Transdev’s decision – I think they are playing for public sympathy.`

      Agree with your last paragraph.

      • greywarshark 5.1.1

        Could we see some of that unpleasant behaviour that we saw on some USA airline, dragging a protesting person out of the aircraft by his feet? If that is the sort of control that the business running the transport think is appropriate, one person will not be able to carry out the maneouvre successfully.

        As we get more helpless under the decimated service culture we have to bear, will we get armed thieves on commuter trains as the dairy owners are suffering? A bit of organisation with advice of where to get on and off through headphones on the crim and watchers outside might set up a risky but profitable system running circles around the outnumbered security.

    • Antoine 5.2

      Hi Jingyang

      Just trying to get my head around this.

      > The train manager positions as they stand are redundant – driver only trains won’t need TMs per se. However, they will need Transport Officers with greater powers

      What will a Transport Officer do, under Transdev’s model?

      A.

      • Jingyang 5.2.1

        As I understand it, TMs largely concentrate on train operations, and while they can ask to see tickets etc they have no ‘police’ power. TOs OTH, are much more like transport police and will have some legal powers – to hold and detain until police arrive and they’ll will be able to get on and off trains snd ‘patrol’ as necessary. Legislation is also necessary to give them their powers.
        The RMTU does also have concerns about assaults on TMs and by extension TOs.

    • tracey 5.3

      Why pay them less and heap on more responsibility? Money, shareholders? Director and CEO bonus?

      Those below smugly talking about driverless will solve tge “problem”, with the problem being people wanting jobs with decent wages, is when those formerly working hands are idle…

  6. AsleepWhileWalking 6

    As a train user, I will only use trains as a last resort if this is brought in.

  7. Son of Don 7

    London Victoria Underground operates with only a driver and that will be busier than the Auckland system (almost 200 million passenger journeys per year).
    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Victoria_line
    Just like driverless vehicles, ATO’s are the future for rail transport. Clearly dinosaurs like Unions don’t want this to happen.

    • One Anonymous Bloke 7.1

      Freedom of speech and association aren’t going anywhere, no matter how much you whinge about other people having them. As Jim Bolger recently admitted, hatred of unions just drags everybody down to your gutter level.

      • Son of Don 7.1.1

        Says another dinosaur….

        • One Anonymous Bloke 7.1.1.1

          Says a fool whose opinions are motivated by hate.

          • infused 7.1.1.1.1

            Change is coming, whether you like it or not.

            Driverless vehicles of all types will put an end to this. Unions are just helping it along.

            • One Anonymous Bloke 7.1.1.1.1.1

              What a good thing I didn’t say anything about change then.

              The jobs of the future will be unionised. Or people can just sit around in the road until you get the message. Robots don’t buy your goods, and they won’t support the “demand” side of your precious economy.

          • Tuppence Shrewsbury 7.1.1.1.2

            Rich coming from a Luddite who hates change

            • Ed 7.1.1.1.2.1

              Do workers have any rights tupoence?
              Or are they simply resources and for employers to exploit?

            • One Anonymous Bloke 7.1.1.1.2.2

              I’m a Luddite now? Change is the only constant. That being so, strength in numbers is its own reward.

    • Molly 7.2

      Unlike Auckland Transport, the Underground doesn’t permit non-passengers access to platforms which would be particularly relevant for many of our stations on the outskirts where there have been incidents with passengers getting harassed.

      The number of experienced commuters also provides a level of security and community not present in Auckland. And all stations would have provision for disabled and high-needs passengers.

      AFAIK, the ATO’s are not expected to be present on all trains. If they are you may have a point. However, random appearances will not provide the security and support that permanent ATOs on every train would do.

      • One Anonymous Bloke 7.2.1

        The London Underground has its own police force. I think whoever duped Son of Don into repeating these lines, “forgot” to mention it.

        • Hornet 7.2.1.1

          “The London Underground has its own police force.”
          That’s correct. But they also have 1.37 billion passengers annually.
          (https://tfl.gov.uk/corporate/about-tfl/what-we-do/london-underground/facts-and-figures).

          Unfortunately it seems the only way to attract customers to public transport in Auckland is to bribe them (https://www.interest.co.nz/news/90460/investing-requires-return-some-point-david-chaston-cant-see-how-aucklands-massive-public)

          • One Anonymous Bloke 7.2.1.1.1

            What do Maninthemiddle and Groundhog say though?

          • Molly 7.2.1.1.2

            Even the comments under your latter link have more depth to them than that article.

            • One Anonymous Bloke 7.2.1.1.2.1

              Delivering passengers to the CBD or any other business district only occurs for 2 reasons. 1: They are customers of the businesses there. 2: They are employees or operators of the businesses there.

              Therefore the full benefit of the transport feeding the CBD is received by the businesses operating there. Why is the cost not wholly borne by those which receive all the benefit benefit?

              I say make it free to passengers and load the entire cost of it onto the rates for those properties within the business zones. Granted the system and services would need to improve somewhat, but that is long overdue. It is not a new model, other places have free public transport. See what that does to the traffic woes.

              I’d like to thank Acrophobic for bringing this to our attention.

              • Hornet

                Who are these people? Honestly you seem to have some kind of identity crisis.

              • Hornet

                Effectively that’s saying that businesses in the city should pay for the costs of their employees getting to work. Or their customers getting to their shops. But only if they are in the city. No-where else, just in the city.

                In the end that’ still a subsidy – just paid for by different people.

                Some of the comments in that thread are best not re-posted OAB.

            • Hornet 7.2.1.1.2.2

              The link was really to just point out how massively a city like Auckland has to subsidise public transport.

              And I’d specifically quote this:
              “Operating subsidies only account for the day-to-day costs of operating the system. But these costs do not involve any cost of capital employed or the cost of any borrowed money. Nor do they include the new Capital Expenditure1 being poured into this system:”

              As to the comments that follow the article, I absolutely agree we need to weigh up the cost of roading v the cost of public transport, just so long as we compare apples with apples. That the subsidies for pubic transport are huge is indisputable, however.

              But the respondent who wrote “because our idiot council sprawls Auckland suburbs too far and wide” obviously doesn’t live in Auckland. Many of the cities suburbs are being ruined by the Council’s obsession with intensification (to justify public transport) and ludicrously underused cycle lanes.

              • The link was really to just point out how massively a city like Auckland has to subsidise public transport.

                It has to massively subsidise private transport too. Your point?

                • Hornet

                  “Your point?”

                  That the only way people are being attracted to public transport is to bribe them. Of course AT are helping too, with their incompetent ‘upgrading’ of suburban shopping precincts, and what appears to be a deliberate attempt to force people out of cars and onto bikes, buses and trains.
                  http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11952666

                  • You could just as easily say that subsidies to private transport mean the only way people are attracted to use roads is to bribe them. And you’d be just as wrong.

                    • Hornet

                      Well now, because road commuter transport is convenient, comfortable, most often faster…

                      It seems that the only way AT are getting people onto public transport is to bribe them or force them.

              • Molly

                Taxes are paid to provide the requirements of society, that everyone benefits from – whether they use it or not. To call it a “subsidy” without context, is creating an emotional reaction from the easily persuaded.

                As pointed out and ignored by you – roading is “subsidised”, so is airtravel.

                Externalities are not paid by the user in other of those cases. The wear and tear on roads, the emissions both in air and road travel, the particulate pollution. All of these impacts on the environment are borne by us all – and most importantly – are not financially quantified. If they were you would be able to see which mode is really being “subsidised” the most.

                Hint: It won’t be public transport.

                • Hornet

                  “Taxes are paid to provide the requirements of society, that everyone benefits from – whether they use it or not.”
                  Yes, but surely we get to debate how those taxes are applied? For example – I can ride a train free to Eden Park to watch a rugby game. Why should I, and other train users, not be expected to pay for that when clearly there are few viable alternatives?

                  “To call it a “subsidy” without context, is creating an emotional reaction from the easily persuaded.”
                  The context was the post I was responding to (https://thestandard.org.nz/auckland-rail-industrial-action/#comment-1454693), which was in turn a response to your own post (https://thestandard.org.nz/auckland-rail-industrial-action/#comment-1454539). I agree with your sentiments there. Security is a major issue for train travel particularly (both on the trains and transit between stations and home), and addressing that issue will just push the level of subsidy up further.

                  “Externalities are not paid by the user in other of those cases.”
                  Well perhaps not fully, but these costs are at least partially and directly offset by charges borne by the user, including road user charges, petrol taxes, tolling etc.

                  “Hint: It won’t be public transport.”
                  Cite?

                  I’m not anti public transport. My two children both use public transport to get to Uni, and it is clear that to avoid excessive congestion, we need a combination of transport options. But public transport in the Auckland context is problematic because of low population density. The point of the article I referenced was to show that public transport is only luring passengers through massive subsidies, not through better services or convenience.

                  • Molly

                    ” For example – I can ride a train free to Eden Park to watch a rugby game.”
                    The pertinent phrase there is “benefit to society”. Public transport, as a whole benefits society. The decision of AT to provide free public transport to an event that will have a lot of attendess, alleviates the pressure on the roads leading to that event, and so could be quantified as having a benefit for those travelling that aren’t attending. This is a separate consideration, and not involved in the overall conversation around provision of comprehensive public transport, just how it is applied in particular instances.

                    ““Hint: It won’t be public transport.”
                    Cite?”

                    Somewhere here, you’ll find the relevance to Auckland. TBH I’ve never seen a report where private transport is less polluting, maybe you’ll cite one? 40% more carbon per user IIRC, for those in private transport. Once more, the actual financial and social costs of that 40% more carbon is not quantified, neither is the comparative build costs of the vehicles used, per passenger.

                    I’m not anti public transport. My two children both use public transport to get to Uni, and it is clear that to avoid excessive congestion, we need a combination of transport options.
                    Sounds a bit like… I’m not a racist, I have friends who are….

                    Anyway, the point is whether we are passengers or not we ALL benefit from those using public transport, in terms of reducing roading requirements, reduced pollution, better air quality and associated positive health outcomes etc.

                    Stop looking at it as a subsidy, and rather as an investment in better outcomes for all. The “subsidy” term is clouding your ability to see further than monetary concerns. Not all the costs of private travel, or benefits of public transport have been monetised and included in those calculations.

                    As far as I am concerned, public transport should be free. Done efficiently, it will reduce the emissions, create social cohesion, improve community planning and start people thinking collectively.

                    • Hornet

                      “Public transport, as a whole benefits society.”
                      So does private transport.

                      “The decision of AT to provide free public transport to an event that will have a lot of attendess, alleviates the pressure on the roads leading to that event, and so could be quantified as having a benefit for those travelling that aren’t attending.”
                      Not really, particularly when there are few, if any alternatives. I should pay my own way to Eden Park…I certainly won’t be driving!

                      “https://at.govt.nz/media/913854/Commuter-costs-potential-savings-report.pdf”
                      Your link relates to savings to the individual commuter. Can you point to the actual content that refers to subsidy levels?

                      “Stop looking at it as a subsidy, and rather as an investment in better outcomes for all.”
                      What better outcomes? You haven’t even evidenced what those better outcomes are! Less congestion – sure. Travelling to large public events where there is little or no alternative – yep. But for convenience, speed to destination, more direct routes, comfort…I’ll drive my car thanks.

                  • Molly

                    “So does private transport.”
                    Primarily, it benefits individuals – and the externalities of that choice are borne by wider society.

                    “Your link relates to savings to the individual commuter. Can you point to the actual content that refers to subsidy levels?”
                    Sorry, I’ll get onto amassing vast amounts of money to do a research project that meets your unknown criteria. As for that, you miss the point, once again. That current financial quantifying often misses the other costs: environmental and social that are incurred. When that is included private transport is “subsidised” quite considerably.

                    “What better outcomes? You haven’t even evidenced what those better outcomes are! Less congestion – sure. Travelling to large public events where there is little or no alternative – yep. But for convenience, speed to destination, more direct routes, comfort…I’ll drive my car thanks.”
                    I’m guessing reading comprehension is not your forte. So I’ll repeat:

                    Anyway, the point is whether we are passengers or not we ALL benefit from those using public transport, in terms of reducing roading requirements, reduced pollution, better air quality and associated positive health outcomes etc.

                    Stop looking at it as a subsidy, and rather as an investment in better outcomes for all. The “subsidy” term is clouding your ability to see further than monetary concerns. Not all the costs of private travel, or benefits of public transport have been monetised and included in those calculations.

                    As far as I am concerned, public transport should be free. Done efficiently, it will reduce the emissions, create social cohesion, improve community planning and start people thinking collectively.

                    • Hornet

                      “Primarily, it benefits individuals…”
                      You didn’t say ‘primarily’. There are many benefits to society of private transport – less congestion of public means, the financial contribution to roading that is then enjoyed by society more widely, car pooling…

                      “…and the externalities of that choice are borne by wider society”
                      As they are with public transport.

                      “That current financial quantifying often misses the other costs”
                      How do you know if you can’t even cite any evidence?

                      “So I’ll repeat: ”
                      You clearly do not understand the difference between an assertion and evidence.

                      You seemed to expect your claims to go unchallenged. Things just don’t work that way.

  8. Bill 8

    And across almost the entire length and breadth of the South Island, little children raise their heads to their mums or dads and ask “What’s “rail”?” And with wide eyed wonder exclaim “I thought “trains” only existed in that bed-time story. They’re real?!”

  9. Cemetery Jones 9

    It’s actually not so bad. I seem to be travelling at peak morning and evening, so I’m used to being packed in anyway. If it helps the staff with their employment negotiations then I can hack it being barely perceptibly more crowded for a couple weeks.

    • Carolyn_Nth 9.1

      I’ve travelled at peak times by bus a couple of times this week – and done a run to Auckland’s northern most area – I haven’t seen anything different from the usual.

      AT/Transdev were scaremongering at the beginning of the week when they pronounced the work to rule industrial action would cause big problems for travelling all around Auckland.

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