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Issue #1682      April 29, 2015

Win railroads Newman’s ghost

Queensland Rail workers have had their job security restored after the AMWU (Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union) and other unions convinced the High Court to throw out Newman government legislative changes which removed fundamental industrial rights.

High Court judges decided unanimously that the Newman government’s attempt to convert Queensland Rail Corporation into a labour hire firm covered only by the LNP’s draconian state industrial laws was invalid.

That transfer to the state system in 2013 threatened forced redundancies of workers and wound back superannuation, union rights to vote on industrial action and officials’ access to workplaces.

Five rail unions won a two-year legal battle when the court found that Queensland Rail is a constitutional corporation under federal law, meaning members have full rights under the Fair Work Act.

AMWU assistant state secretary Terry Bradley said the decision should help clear the way to resume negotiating new collective agreements for our Queensland Rail members.

They have been without a pay rise since their previous agreements lapsed in 2014. But untangling the legal mess left from the incompetent Newman government’s moves may take some time yet.

“This decision helps clear the air, it clarifies our members’ protection under the Fair Work Act, it means we should be able to negotiate new agreements on fair terms,” he said.

“The Newman government were hell bent on stripping away working conditions but members know their union will fight for their rights through to the highest court in the country.”

The court also ordered the Queensland government to pay the majority of the unions’ costs.

At least 300 AMWU members in Queensland Rail’s rolling stock maintenance facilities at Mayne in Brisbane and across the state are likely to benefit from the decision, including delegate Ivan Reis.

“It’s a very good decision that restores our redundancy rights, our union rights built up over many decades,” Mr Reis said.

“It would be nice to think that when we do finally gain a new agreement we could get the back pay for the time this High Court decision has taken – but that’s some way down the track.”

Next article – Don’t mention the R word

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