Rail union fights QR's recruitment drive with new appeal
A PALASZCZUK Government plan to fix the Queensland Rail debacle is facing a new obstacle of its own making as union bosses launch a last- ditch bid to halt a crucial driver recruitment campaign.
The powerful Rail Tram and Bus Union has ramped up its battle to protect controversial closed-shop recruitment rules at QR by appealing against the Fair Work Commission's decision last month allowing QR to throw open dozens of train driver vacancies to the public.
Ironically, the appeal was made possible after Labor agreed to strengthen closed-shop rules in a new train driver enterprise agreement last year.
The appeal threatens to further delay QR's recovery to a full train timetable following the October 2016 rail meltdown, with QR having already frozen the appointment of external driver recruits for months while the dispute played out in the commission, documents show.
QR last month quashed an RTBU challenge by convincing the commission it had complied with a newly bolstered requirement to exhaust internal recruitment efforts before throwing the jobs open to the general public.
But the union is arguing that QR failed to restart the internal recruitment process when it launched its latest search for drivers.
"The RTBU has written to Queensland Rail today seeking that no appointments be made until after the determination of this matter," state secretary Owen Doogan wrote to members this month.
The appeal comes almost a year after the $2.5 million Strachan Inquiry into QR recommended fixing the timetable fiasco by opening the driver jobs to external applicants to "achieve a structural surplus".
The inquiry exposed a rort in which a driver shortage was used to create overtime opportunities. It also criticised union rules that force QR to offer driver jobs internally before going public.
But QR endorsed the new external hiring restrictions in drivers' 2017 enterprise agreement just days after the inquiry delivered its findings and weeks after Government ministers wrote to QR ordering it to push through the deal.
A spokesman for Transport Minister Mark Bailey said the Government was aware of the appeal.
"We understand that QR are continuing to progress with external recruitment for drivers and guards, consistent with the Fair Work Commission's view.
"Since October 2016, Queensland Rail has selected 145 trainee drivers and 262 trainee guards, with 51 drivers and 158 guards now fully qualified and working," he said.