The Guardian 13 April, 2005

WA guards win rail war

Western Australian rail guards have battled back from broken bones and smashed teeth to land a blow on WA rail bosses. The guards are campaigning against "single manning", which has left them working alone up to 7pm at night, and instructed not to make arrests.

The WA Branch of the Rail Tram and Bus Union (RTBU) claims single manning jeopardises passenger and guard safety. The matter came to a head the weekend before last following an assault on several guards on Perth’s Northern Line.

Two female guards rostered to work the following Sunday felt insecure about working alone and informed their employer, the Public Transport Authority (PTA). The PTA responded by standing them down.

On the Monday more guards refused duties and the matter became a lively community debate on Perth talkback radio. Instead of addressing the guards’ safety concerns, the PTA launched an internal investigation, accusing guards of phoning up talkback.

"Many guards have been quite badly beaten", said Glen Ferguson from the RTBU. "We told the Minister that unless this was addressed she would find herself on a war footing with the RTBU."

The women were subsequently reinstated.

Apart from single manning — which the RTBU puts down to short staffing — Mr Ferguson also hit out at PTA treatment of injured workers and the high attrition rate amongst rail guard staff.

"There is a running conflict between their legislative responsibilities and their policies", he said. "Workers Compensation laws mean that employers have the responsibility to provide workers with other jobs when they are recovering from injury.

"The Public Transport Authority is dodging all its responsibilities in this area. They want to give their injured workers the sack."

Privately employed Chubb Security guards are also up in arms with similar complaints regarding their placement at PTA facilities.

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