Vic: ‘Night Network’ made permanent

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Victoria’s trial of all-night public transport on weekends was made permanent in the May state budget. People who make use of the extra trams, trains and buses on Friday and Saturday nights will be happy, but public transport workers are less than impressed with the terms and conditions.

Government figures claim that 20% of night network users are shift workers. Young people from the suburbs and regional centres are heavy users of the service too. People who need transport before 7am on a Sunday also benefit. But public transport workers are deeply dissatisfied with the implementation and rostering arrangements. Overnight shifts are simply tacked on to existing highly variable shift work rosters, amplifying the health hazards.

New contract staff were hired, but not enough to alleviate the burdens of 24-hour running. These staff have simply had their contracts extended, instead of being made permanent. The operator of the train network, Metro says they need to work out the “ongoing resources required for night network”. This is code for slashing staff levels and yet another example of why we need to kick out the private operators and bring back public ownership and operation of public transport.

Unfortunately, officials from the Rail Tram and Bus Union (RTBU) show little enthusiasm to fight on these issues, because they are loyal to the governing Labor Party and don’t want to add to their political headaches. They also officially support part-time jobs. Feeling abandoned and frustrated, some staff oppose the night network altogether. But this is a mistake that divides workers from their natural allies: other workers who rely on public transport.

Instead, public transport workers need to strengthen their organisation from the bottom up so they can fight for better rostering and permanent full-time jobs for all staff who want them. This can lay the basis for better services for commuters as well, building widespread support for our struggles and strengthening our hand against the private operators and the pro-corporate major parties.

By a Metro worker