ETU Media Releases

ETU Media Releases

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Sydney Metro North West asbestos shock

Paul Lister - Monday, August 21, 2017

The discovery of asbestos in a major Sydney infrastructure project has alarmed workers and union officials, who have questioned the methods of the consortium building the project.

The Sydney Metro North West site at Tallawong Road, Schofields was shut down shortly before midday on Thursday for the second time this week after asbestos was discovered in an area where heavy machinery had been operating for more than a year. Workers were sent back to work on the site on Friday.

Electrical Trades Union New South Wales secretary Dave McKinley said the fact that the material was detected long after work had commenced was evidence that the company had not properly surveyed the site before commencing.

“Any form of asbestos is deadly – let me make that perfectly clear,” he said. “Given that there has been heavy machinery operating in the nearby area, it’s hard to see how it would not have become loose and airborne.

“We are concerned that more than 100 workers have been exposed to this material. We are also concerned that visitors to the Buddhist Temple that backs onto the site and local residents could be at risk.”

Union officials have been unable to locate the hazardous materials register for the site, which head contractor NRT Project – a consortium of John Holland, Cimic, Leightons and UGL – are required by law to maintain.

“It appears that the people in charge of this project put budgets and timelines ahead of human lives,” he said. “We want to know why this material wasn’t detected in pre-work surveys and where the register of hazardous materials that it should appear on has gone.”

Mr McKinley said he wanted an explanation of why workers were sent back to affected areas after the initial discovery, and demanded an agreed independent hygienist survey all Sydney Metro North West sites to determine their safety. He also demanded lung capacity testing for people working in affected areas, air quality testing for surrounding neighbourhoods and asbestos awareness training for all workers on the project.

Finally, Mr McKinley said that anyone exposed, working on the project or living in the area who risked exposure should be added to the national asbestos exposure register.

Rail commuters to suffer slower responses to emergencies

Paul Lister - Monday, December 09, 2013

Commuters will be forced to wait for longer during breakdowns and other emergencies as a result of a RailCorp restructure that will axe electrical staff and instead call in private contractors to carry out their roles.

The Electrical Trades Union said RailCorp today informed 21 electrical workers that they will no longer have a job under a proposed restructure. The job’s being axed involve essential electrical maintenance and emergency response roles, including 18 electrical substation workers, the manager of electrical, a maintenance engineer, and an electrical project officer.

ETU NSW secretary Steve Butler said that on the eve of Christmas, staff from Wollongong, Sydney and Newcastle had been told that they would not have a job in 2014.

“This restructure has the potential to seriously impact on rail customers from early next year, leading to delayed response times to breakdowns and other emergency situations while a private contractor is called in,” Mr Butler said.

“Past RailCorp reviews have confirmed that retaining electrical maintenance personnel within the company was the most efficient way to maintain assets and respond to critical incidents.

“The potential impact on customers from this outsourcing of front-line jobs will be substantial, with industry insiders telling the union that response times could routinely be between six and 48 hours for major incidents that occur outside business hours including people being trapped in lifts or blackouts at underground railway stations.”

Mr Butler said a previous attempt by RailCorp to contract out electrical maintenance work in the past had failed, with the jobs eventually brought back in-house.

“This was trialled several years ago on the Hunter Line, where it proved to be seriously flawed,” he said.

“In the end RailCorp was forced to bring the service back in-house because of the deficiencies in the services capabilities and response times of private contractors.

"Commuters across the rail network can expect to suffer further reduction’s to services and poorer reliability from next year if this restructure goes ahead as planned.”