AUCKLAND, New Zealand — Some 500 members of the Rail and Maritime Transport Union held a one-day strike and picketed stations here Dec. 8 to protest company plans to introduce one-person passenger train “crews.”
“Safety of staff and the public is paramount in this fight,” Stuart Johnstone, the union’s northern region organizer, told the Militant.
Currently each train has both a driver and a conductor, called a train manager, with the latter responsible for monitoring door operation and passengers, and for medical emergencies. Transdev Auckland, which operates the trains for Auckland Transport, plans to eliminate permanent on-board crew members. Some 170 conductors and 40 ticketing inspectors will be laid off.
“This will put an immense amount of pressure on the driver to safely operate the train alone,” said Johnstone.
As passersby expressed support for workers at the Papakura Train Station picket line, they gave us examples of how on-board workers are essential for safety. One train manager recently saved a crawling baby from being crushed, stopping train doors closing on it.
“The company’s perception of safety is different to workers,” said Paul Stirling, a train driver from another company, who came to show support. “Their view is purely on economics.”
Auckland Transport has said they will deploy up to 230 “transport officers” to patrol the rail, bus and ferry networks when driver-only trains are implemented. But, workers said, that won’t make them safer. There will still be only one person on the train, the driver.
In November workers at Transdev Wellington, a sister company, went on strike over demands to slash their working conditions and cut overtime rates for weekend work.