Members’ update – Transport Secretary response to STA Privatisation & Dissolution Bill
The PSA and combined unions met with the Transport Secretary on Thursday 31 October as part of the Joint Consultative Group. The Transport Secretary spoke to the PSA and combined unions on several items including the Government decision to privatise the STA and the processes of Evolving Transport Reform.
What about ‘no privatisations in the foreseeable future’?
In April, after the announcements to dissolve the RMS, the PSA and combined unions were provided with answers that there were no further privatisations on the radar. Six months later, the State Transit Authority will be wholly privatised. Evidently, TfNSW cannot see into the future as far as the NSW Transport Minister.
Let’s be clear – privatisations are the fabric of this NSW Government’s ideology. Public servants and those citizens that rely on public transport should always understand this. It’s what they do.
The process of the RMS Dissolution Bill
The RMS Dissolution Bill has now been debated in the Legislative Assembly (the Lower House) of NSW Parliament, after its return on 15 October from the Legislative Council (the Upper House) and remained on every Order of Business since.
Our previous bulletin mentioned the five amendments that have been sought by the PSA and combined unions that were made in the Legislative Council.
Based on the previously stated ideology of a Transport Minister who likes to privatise and cut public services, the PSA was informed by the Transport Secretary that some of the amendments would be difficult for the NSW Government to accept. However, there was no elaboration of which of the five amendments (Job Security, No Loss of Employment Entitlements, Jobs in Regions, No Privatisations) the Transport Secretary was speaking about.
Through Unions NSW, the PSA and combined unions extended an opportunity to sit down and meet with the Transport Minister in order to discuss and understand the concerns those amendments pose. The Transport Minister did not take up that offer and amendments to those amendments were presented and passed in the Legislative Assembly on Tuesday 13 November.
Click HERE to see a copy of the entire further Amendments.
Amendment 1 – No forced Redundancies for RMS Staff for 4 Years
The government’s changes limit the no forced redundancies principle to former non-executive RMS employees only.
Rather than the protection going for four years as in the original amendment, the changes limit the protection for as long as the Awards are in force. This is 4 years under Amendment 3 but could be earlier if the parties agree to combine awards earlier.
TfNSW staff are taken out of the Bill completely – talk about poor cousins. The concern is that if the prohibition is limited to RMS staff only, following eventual reform, TfNSW staff roles substantially similar to the merged RMS roles will be targeted for redundancy.
Amendment 2 – No Privatisation of RMS Work
Government changes limit the protection to privatisation only – they have removed the reference to outsourcing in the original amendments.
Again, the changes limit the protection to RMS work only.
Amendment 3 – RMS Awards not to be Merged into TfNSW Awards
This includes a caveat which allows consolidation on the basis that the industrial organisations (i.e unions) consent to the consolidation. Will affect the timeframes associated to Amendment 1.
Amendment 4 – Disputes may be resolved by Industrial Relations Commission
Government changes takes away the ability of a group of people to bring a dispute to the IRC if they are materially disadvantaged by the dissolution – a person can still bring a dispute.
Changes also only allow non-executive employees to bring a dispute in the IRC. There is a new subclause that allows executive employees to ask the Transport Secretary to review the matter.
The changes also limit the operation of this clause to four years (it was previously unlimited).
There is a new requirement that the person must follow the DSP set out in the applicable award as far as practicable before making an application to the IRC.
Where to now?
The PSA and combined unions have passed on their concerns regarding the potential perverse outcomes of the amendments through Unions NSW to the Upper House Members. It is now up to the combined strength of the Upper House members to either accept, decline or amend those amendments on amendments.
What happens if there is NO agreement on legislation to dissolve the RMS?
TfNSW has effectively told the PSA and combined unions that contingencies are in place for a dual-reporting structure. Still this requires there to be two Operating Funds, two Chief Executives, two sets of books etc. As for the requirements to administer this entity, all staff are employed by the Transport Service and the Transport Secretary can use the powers under the Transport Administration Act 1988 to move staff pursuant to 68Q. Effectively this does not mean that everything will go back to what is what before. However, there will be some questions on how the appropriate management of the agency will be maintained.
Evolving Transport – top-line reform proposals
The PSA and combined unions were briefed on the top-line structures and the proposed changes to the reporting structures as part of the Evolving Transport reform. TfNSW advised that due to the changes of responsibilities (read that as more responsibilities), there would be the minimum number of direct appointments. That being said, the bulk of recruitment would be made up by either expression of interest and part matching as well as internal recruitment. It is approximated that external recruitment would equate some 20 per cent.
The Top-line proposals have a direct link to the design of the structures below it. Therefore, it is important for members to have their say on the make-up of their respective Divisions as part of the 3-B consultation processes.
Understandably it is difficult to provide informed feedback when matters like Divisional Budgets and Legislation to dissolve the RMS is yet to be finalised. Yes, the PSA has expressed our concerns with TfNSW putting the cart before the horse.
The PSA wants a level playing field
Having members in both TfNSW and the RMS Group, the PSA does not want to see a process where by one group is afforded better protections than another.
It is bad enough that there will be wholesale reform from the Evolving Transport process and members’ jobs security will be targeted.
Not a member?
In these times of change and uncertainty, there has never been a more important time to join your union. Join today at www.psa.asn.au or call the PSA Member Support Centre on 1300 772 679.