Thirteen Metro Trains drivers have been stood down after refusing to use a new section of track at South Yarra, claiming they lack proper training.
Drivers on Frankston, Cranbourne and Pakenham line trains who refused to use new tracks between South Yarra and Hawksburn on Monday were stood down by Metro pending an investigation.
The Rail Tram and Bus Union has argued Metro’s 10-minute instructional video for drivers on how to navigate a new section of track was inadequate and drivers felt that running the services was unsafe.
Metro took the case to the Fair Work Commission on Friday, where the commission’s deputy president Val Gostencnik rejected the union’s claims.
In his legal opinion handed down late on Saturday night, Mr Gostencnik said the drivers’ training did not pose a health and safety risk.
“On the evidence, the fact that training was provided to drivers through instructed CGI [computer-generated imagery] briefings and route information booklets … is not likely to found a basis for a reasonable concern by an employee about an imminent risk to the employee’s health and safety.”
However, Mr Gostencnik appears to have dismissed Metro’s claim that drivers were at risk of taking unprotected industrial action, as the issue was excluded from his legal opinion.
The RTBU’s assistant secretary of the locomotive division, Jim Chrysostomou, said Metro’s actions were unjustified.
“I think this is heavy-handed and they’re aware of what the safety issues are, but in true Metro fashion, rather than deal with the issue, they want to bully or coerce people into performing a role or a task that the individual deems to be unsafe.”
Services on the Frankston, Cranbourne and Pakenham lines resumed on Monday following a four-week shutdown.
Metro does not believe the actions of the 13 drivers affected services.
Premier Daniel Andrews was reluctant to buy into the issue on Monday, saying he was not in the business of “playing politics with safety”.
“Safety is very important, I know Metro take that very seriously, I know the train drivers and union take that seriously as well,” Mr Andrews said.
It comes as Yarra Trams staff prepare to halt the city’s trams on Tuesday and Thursday, during the Australian Open, amid a bitter pay dispute that has lasted nearly a year.
The strikes from 10am to 2pm will cruel the commutes of those attending the Australian Open quarter- and semi-finals.
Replacement buses on mjost routes will run every 30 minutes, with services running along St Kilda Road every 15 minutes.
Shuttle buses for the Australian Open will run every 10 minutes from Federation Square to Melbourne Park.
RTBU assistant secretary of the tram and bus division Tarik Koc said the union was still arguing with Yarra Trams over its bid to lift a cap on the number of part-time workers from 4 per cent to 15 per cent, which the union fears will strip workers rights.
“We don’t want a bar of it, because this will diminish workers’ incomes dramatically,” he said.
The union has lowered its claim from a 6 per cent pay rise over four years to 5 per cent.
Yarra Trams has encouraged people to travel early to avoid the disruption.
“We share our passengers’ frustration with services unnecessarily being disrupted twice this week by the RTBU,” chief executive Julien Dehornoy said.
The Premier urged Yarra Trams and the union to reach a “fair and balanced outcome” rather than “taking completely unnecessary industrial action that inconveniences passengers”.
Opposition transport infrastructure spokesman David Davis said it was outrageous Mr Andrews had not found a solution before strikes impacted tennis-goers and Victoria’s reputation.
Metro Trains has been approached for comment.
By Timna Jacks (the Age) with Sumeyya Ilanbey.