Rail Tram and Bus Union Queensland Branch
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Response to ETU/ AMWU/ AFULE Circular

The RTBU understand that the three Unions referred to above have issued a circular providing some criticism of the RTBU for following the legal advice we received which clearly indicated there were no disadvantages to following our members’ demands to escalate the campaign for decent agreements through balloting for potential industrial action.

The history of events is as follows:

The RTBU first proposed an industrial action campaign with the other Unions in March this year suggesting that we consult with our members and pursue an industrial campaign. The consensus of the Unions referred to above was that they believed we should leave it for some more negotiations before going down this track which the RTBU accepted.
The RTBU at various stages brought the matter up again but with little support from the three Unions referred to above. The RTBU continued to try and persuade that this was indeed the right tactic to take with little success. However, unity was an important factor which at that stage meant that the RTBU (which has more members in Aurizon than the other three Unions combined) determined not to proceed with the course of action we believed appropriate in the interests of unity.
Shortly thereafter Aurizon announced that it had made an application to terminate the agreements. The RTBU sought advice from our industrial lawyer in our National Office and also one of the top firms of IR lawyers in Sydney in respect of industrial action for these applications. The advice the RTBU received was that it was in our interest to proceed with industrial action prior to the matter being pursued any further by Aurizon. Unfortunately, the RTBU could not get agreement with these three other Unions and again, in the interests of unity, did not seek to proceed individually at that point.
Finally we got to a stage where the RTBU had been advised by other Unions involved that their legal advice was that the best time to proceed with this step would be immediately prior to the matter going to hearing at Fair Work Australia. In the interests of unity, the RTBU therefore elected to wait until this time before taking the necessary preparation work for progressing to this stage in the negotiating process.
The opportunity to progress our joint industrial campaign was then hijacked by Aurizon announcing its intention to ballot employees on the Agreement. Industrial Action discussions were, quite rightly, put on a back burner as all unions focused on the outrageous attempts to circumvent meaningful negotiations through the Agreement ballots.
With the ballot over discussions commenced about protected industrial action and the consensus was to go before the case was heard.
Last week the parties were in agreement that we would proceed with this action. A meeting had been arranged for Monday this week (3/11/14) for the Unions to meet to finalise some of the logistical issues surrounding this application for a protected action ballot. The understanding was that the applications from the four Unions involved would be submitted on Tuesday, 4 November 2014.
At 11.55am (five minutes before the meeting was scheduled) I received a telephone call from one of the Secretaries of the Unions involved advising that they had had further legal advice which said that they should refrain from industrial action at this point.
The RTBU immediately sought advice from our legal team and was advised that they could see no reason not to proceed with our plans to ballot our members.
The demand from our members to step up to an industrial campaign, the intransigence and behaviour of Aurizon, supplemented by our strong legal advice means the RTBU has no apologies for proceeding to seek the right for our members to participate in a ballot for potential industrial action to try and secure decent Agreements in Aurizon.

With what has happened since March (the behaviour of Aurizon in negotiations, Application to terminate agreements and the bosses Agreement ballot) the RTBU’s judgement at that point that we should embark on an industrial campaign has been well and truly vindicated.

The RTBU respects the right of individual Unions to make decisions in respect of how they progress in the campaign and, just as they do, we prefer to operate in a united fashion where this is possible. It was striving for a united approach that meant the RTBU has not pursued the industrial strategy that we believe should have been pursued over the last eight months.

We also recognise that the different Unions may get different legal advice and have to put weight on the advice they get and may also have different priorities in their areas. This is not suggesting that they are not acting in the way they consider best for their membership. Or for that matter we are not suggesting that they are not following the wishes of their membership.

The RTBU has a duty to look after the interests of our membership also and our legal advice and our industry experience firmly suggests this is the correct direction.

The history reported above is only provided to address some points made in the other Unions’ recent publication. It is not the intention of the RTBU to get into a battle with these Unions as no-one’s membership wants that and our battle is with Aurizon.

Our desire is for all Unions to work together and we encourage all delegates and members at workplace level to continue to work together in the struggle against Aurizon’s appalling agenda.

Unity is Strength
Owen Doogan
State Secretary