Metro Trains employees hear over and over again that “safety is the number one priority” in our industry. In every bulletin, every press release and every staff meeting we’re reminded. Every time we hear it, we snigger – not because we don’t take safety seriously but because we know that the company doesn’t.
When safety issues arise on Melbourne’s rail network it is down to us as a unionised workforce to make an issue of it. Time and again, we have to force Metro and the state government to take action.
Recently, Metro made headlines when the Rail, Tram and Bus Union threatened to halt the network over a number of serious safety complaints about the trains that carry more than 400,000 people every day.
A number of static inverters on the Siemens type trains had exploded in the preceding weeks, presenting a fire risk and posing danger to passengers and workers.
Drivers have also discovered a fault in the digital communication system on some trains, which could prevent communication with passengers in an emergency situation.
Despite concerns being raised about these critical matters with Metro and Public Transport Victoria, neither agreed to seek appropriate solutions until the union publicly threatened strike action.
This wasn’t a surprise to union members. Whether it is dealing with serious tripping hazards at old stations, maggots falling from ceilings, safety guidelines for track workers or enforcing inclement weather policies, it has always been up to us to force the bosses to provide a safe workplace and rail network for the public.