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QUEENSLAND Rail’s Christmas Day timetable meltdown coincided with a fresh wave of union campaigning that paralysed the network when it was at its most vulnerable, The Courier-Mail can reveal.
Documents released under Right to Information show the Rail, Tram and Bus Union capitalised on months of driver shortage-led service cancellations by planning a strike for December. The union had emailed QR to notify it of a four-hour work stoppage for Saturday, December 10.
QR devised a secret action plan in response that was approved by then-transport minister Stirling Hinchliffe’s office but was waiting on Treasurer Curtis Pitt’s approval, emails reveal.
RTBU state secretary Owen Doogan. Picture: Annette Dew
Queensland Treasurer Curtis Pitt. Picture: Richard Gosling
Yesterday Mr Pitt did not answer questions about what the action was or his response.
It appears the union may have run out of time to carry out the strike threat, with the Fair Work Commission approval for any industrial action expiring on December 8.
But just weeks later a combination of staff calling in sick, driver unavailability and inflexible rostering rules created a wave of Christmas Day cancellations that left QR bosses humiliated.
More than 261 of 730 services were cancelled – the worst since driver shortages arose.
The fiasco triggered the resignation of QR’s chief operating officer, Kevin Wright.
It is understood that month QR was warned drivers would disrupt services by taking leave en masse if it did not cave to union demands for higher driver overtime penalty rates.
The Strachan Commission of Inquiry into QR exposed a union overtime scheme where a systemic undersupply of train crew of up to 10 per cent had guaranteed lucrative overtime payments.
Latest figures show QR continues to pay almost $1 million a fortnight in overtime. RTBU state secretary Owen Doogan did not return calls yesterday, but has previously said it “didn’t even cross my mind” when questioned if the union took advantage of the driver shortage.
A QR spokeswoman said the enterprise bargaining agreement has been agreed to by both QR and the unions and it was working with the unions to implement the Strachan recommendations.
This article first appeared on www.couriermail.com.au
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