Interview with Bus Drivers’ Union secretary about Wednesday’s Brisbane bus strike

Last Wednesday, Brisbane bus drivers at the Toowong depot went on strike after a driver was stood down. The driver was stood down following this report on Channel 9 TV News showing a young girl getting her foot caught in the door of a bus. While Channel 9 said the driver “showed little remorse”, the footage shows him walking past the TV crew (who did nothing to help the girl) and going straight to the back door of the bus to make sure everything was OK. You’ll notice that the TV report doesn’t show anything of what he said or did when he got to where the girl was.

Looking at the footage shown in the Channel 9 report, it looks very dodgy that the driver was stood down (he was a casual so unless the union can win a case for him, he wouldn’t have got paid for being stood down). I kept an open mind until I saw the footage, but now I think he was being unfairly blamed by the his management. If someone in a place I worked at was stood down on such flimsy evidence, I hope my fellow workers would strike to defend not only my rights, but their own.

I talked with David Matters, Assistant Secretary of the Queensland Branch of the Rail Tram and Bus Union about the incident. Mr Matters explains that this has been an ongoing safety issue, that Brisbane Transport management may have been upset that bus drivers and the union have been challenging management on safety issues, and also talks about just how stressful a bus driver’s job is.

Click on this link to listen to the interview – if your browser won’t play the interview, clicking here will download it so you can listen on your own computer: 091210 David Matters RTBU

It’s important to note that even though this strike was clearly about unfair treatment of a worker, the strike was declared illegal within hours. This is as a result of workplace laws brought in by the Rudd Labor Government, the worst anti-union laws ever brought in by an Australian Labor Goverment.

On Friday morning I sent the following email to Councillor Jane Prentice, the chair of Brisbane City Council’s public transport committee – in effect, she is Brisbane City Council’s “Minister for Buses”:

Dear Ms Prentice,

I am writing a story, to be published on Saturday afternoon December 12 2009, on Brisbane’s bus strike last Wednesday. I am emailing you to ask you to clarify some issues and to give you a chance to say anything you think the public should know about the story.

1) Media reports suggest the driver shown on Channel Nine TV News on Monday who had a passenger’s foot caught in the back door of his bus was stood down from duty before any enquiry had had the chance to report on the full facts of the incident. Is this so?

2) Media reports suggest that the driver was a casual employee. If so, and if it is true that he was stood down before any enquiry had reported, does this mean that he would have received no pay during the enquiry?

3) If the driver was stood down before any enquiry had examined the full facts of the case, why was that so?

4) What complaints or suggestions have been received formally or informally by Brisbane Transport management from employees about safety issues related to back-door sensors in buses designed to stop the doors closing while passengers might be caught in them?

5) Do you have any comments or observations you’d like the public to know about regarding this issue?

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