27 August 2015
Today Melbourne’s vibrant tram network will grind to a halt as the Fair Work Commission (“FWC”) has refused to prevent a four-hour strike planned by the Rail, Tram and Bus Union (“RTBU”).
The application by tram operator, KDR Victoria Pty Ltd (better known as “Yarra Trams”) to have the FWC suspend or terminate the protected industrial action was brought under s424(c) of the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) (“FW Act"). Under this section, the FWC has an obligation to make such an order if it is satisfied that the proposed action will “threaten to endanger the life, the personal safety or health, or the welfare of the population or part of it.”
Commissioner Lee of the FWC heard the application late Tuesday evening in Yarra Trams’ final effort to quell the disruption. When presented with the arguments that this action would satisfy the requirements of s424(c) Commission Lee was not persuaded and applied the typically stringent threshold necessary for the FWC to find that there was a real threat to the population arising from the tram strike.
The protected industrial action is expected to last from 10am to 2pm Thursday and will affect all of Melbourne Trams. It is unclear whether there will be further actions but RTBU divisional secretary, Phil Altieri, has indicated the parties are still fairly far apart.
The most recent offer by Yarra Trams of a 15% pay rise over four years, if staff agreed to work a 14-day roster, was rejected by the RTBU.