The Guardian February 2, 2000


AWAs rejected at Tasrail

Workers at Tasmania's privatised rail service, Tasrail, are rejecting 
the individual contracts they signed in 1997 when the rail system was 
privatised. Dissatisfaction with their treatment under Australian Workplace 
Agreements (AWAs) has seen the workers rejoin their union and campaign for 
a union-negotiated collective agreement.

Tasrail is owned by US transnational Wisconsin Central Transportation. The 
company is demanding that the 200 workers sign new three-year AWAs and 
refuses to meet with the three rail unions.

Wisconsin Central has union agreements in its US, Canadian, British and New 
Zealand operations.

Tasrail tried to prevent the move to unionisation and the call for a 
collective agreement by terminating the old AWAs one year early and 
replacing them with the new three-year contracts. Many of the Tasrail 
workers have returned these current AWAs unsigned to management.

The rail unions have called on the International Transport Workers' 
Federation (ITF) to campaign internationally for Wisconsin Central to 
respect basic trade union rights in Tasmania.

"We urge you to redress your attitude towards the unions and meet with them 
without delay to discuss matters of mutual concern", said a letter from the 
ITF to the company.

"Should you fail to do so, the ITF and its affiliates have no option but to 
maximise our global protest against Tasrail."

ACTU Secretary-elect, Greg Combet, called on Tasrail to start collective 
bargaining now and drop its demand that the workers must sign new three-
year individual contracts.

"The company's refusal to even meet with the three rail unions is wrong", 
said Mr Combet. "Just as they do in all the other countries in which they 
operate, Wisconsin Central should sit down and collectively bargain."

The ACTU supports the call for the ITF's international campaign.

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