The RTBU National Council decided to strongly support the ITF world action day on March 26.

Safety First, Not Profit

Global and national upheaval in Rail

Since 1989, a wave of restructuring, downsizing and privatisation has swept the rail industry in many parts of the industrialised world, and many developing countries. The land mark event was the privatisation of British Rail which has been marked by a series of calamitous fatal accidents, dismal service quality, and now financial collapse of RailTrack.

In Australia, the privatisation wave begun with the 1997 sale of Australian National has now led to the privatisation of all rail freight businesses except QR, and the sale of the rail passenger services in Victoria and interstate. National Competition Policy has forced third party access on QR and imposed deregulation everywhere.
Cost cutting has been a major feature of this period, and safety has been a major casualty. The worst disaster was the fatal Glenbrook crash in December 1999, and there have been accidents and incidents in every network.

RTBU gains

During this period, the RTBU has campaigned to restore focus and resources to rail safety, and has won a significant commitment in NSW for legislated maximum working hours for train drivers. In late 2001, Connex, the French transnational train operator, announced a massive cost cutting program in its Melbourne passenger operation which would have downgraded services. RTBU action saved many jobs and four stations from closure.

International Action Day for Rail Safety

The RTBU National Council decided to strongly support the ITF world action day on March 26. Meetings of members will be held in different sections of the rail industry in each state to decide what specific form of action and what specific demands will be made on March 26.

Some ideas include:

  • workplace meetings to highlight safety incidents and conduct safety audits
  • demands for proper staffing levels and no more cutting corners
  • demand for a nation-wide compatible train radio system
  • measures to increase passenger and railway worker safety.


The International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) is a federation of 570 transport workers’ trade unions in over 132 countries. It is one of the eleven International Trade Secretariats allied with the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU)

Founded in 1896, it is organised into eight industrial sections, seafaring, docks, railways, road transport, civil aviation, inland navigation, fisheries and tourism services. It represents the interests of transport workers at world level through international solidarity. The Railway Workers’ Section’s membership includes some 140 unions in nearly 80 countries worldwide, representing 1.4 million members, which is more than 30% of the ITF’s total membership.

Authorised by Roger Jowett, National Secretary, RTBU 83-89 Renwick St, Redfern NSW 2016. Ph: 02 9310 3966; Fax: 02 9319 2096; email: Feb 26, 2002.