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The train drivers say new rostering arrangements will increase the risk of driver error if they are forced to run trains up and down the same line multiple times a day. They warn it is a risk to the community because the drivers become complacent and less alert.
The mass exodus follows an agreement struck between the union and Metro Trains earlier this year that drivers say has put the community at risk.
The outraged rail workers said they resigned in protest against new rostering rules and warned of the danger of fatalities when drivers were forced to drive on the same track multiple times a day.
One experienced Metro Trains driver — who did not want to be named out of fear of losing his job — said in 2015 drivers would be assigned to drive four different tracks a day across the network.
But now many are forced to repeat the same line three times in a single shift.
He said that increased the risk of driver error because of complacency and reduced alertness.
"There have already been far more rookie mistakes made, a lot more signals have been passed and a lot more platform overshoots," he said.
"We've already had instances where drivers have run express through a particular station five times — on the sixth when they are supposed to stop — they have barrelled through it, because a human reaction like that is inevitable."
Metro Trains says driver rosters adhere to strict limits based on safety requirements.(ABC News: John Graham)The driver said he was worried the changes could end in tragedy.
"Passengers should be concerned because they are driven by people whose skills are being eroded and they are less engaged with their job," he said.
"The variety keeps you fresh and avoids complacency.
"It (the new agreement) is just not safe. Potentially people could be killed."
Metro Trains said evidence showed repeated driving of one line did not increase safety risks.
"The safety of our drivers is our first priority and every roster adheres to strict limits based on safety requirements and scientific evidence," a spokesperson said.
Union members feel 'betrayed'The Metro Trains enterprise bargaining agreement (EBA) vote passed by a margin of less than 1 per cent in May.
Only 35 per cent of the RTBU's rail division staff are locomotive drivers. The rest are in operations.
Other Metro train drivers have raised concerns about reduced training and have said workers are made to drive on their own with only a fraction of the supervised training they had six or seven years ago.
"We feel betrayed by the union that is supposed to protect our conditions [and] has instead sold them off," one driver said.
"Basically Metro want train drivers to be turned into tram drivers, lower-paid, lower-skilled individuals who just grind up and down on the same track and therefore need less training."
One driver said some mistakes are already being made, with trains overshooting platforms.(AA Tracey Nearmy)Driver does not want to travel same train line repeatedlyThe RTBU said about 5 per cent of train drivers resigned from the union due to their "discontent" with the representation they received through the negotiations.
"Following over 100 bargaining meetings, these conditions are what was able to be negotiated by the responsible officials amidst the looming pandemic," union state secretary Luba Grigorovitch said.
"While it was negotiated for priority to be given to volunteers looking to work closer to home, the Victorian branch of the RTBU is currently investigating further ways in which the impacts of these current circumstances can be mitigated for drivers to ensure a safe workplace."
The secretary of the RTBU's locomotive division, Marc Marotta, said nearly 600 members left after the EBA negotiations.
"We are slowly working to restore membership," he said.
"We expect some members to come back to vote for a change to the current office bearers, after new laws proposed by [Federal Industrial Relations Minister] Christian Porter to de-amalgamate unions."
Another driver who spoke to the ABC said he was worried about the effect the new conditions would have on drivers.
"I do not want to go down the same line three times a day, every day. They could double my pay and I would still say no," the driver said.
"If a driver makes an error, an investigation will be launched, they will be relieved of their duty, have their keys taken off them and they will be made to feel terrible at the very least — and that's if there are no injuries or deaths."
The RTBU said it remained prepared to make any necessary legal challenges to support train drivers and ensure Metro complied with its obligations.
This article first appeared on www.abc.net.au
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