Vol. 82/No. 1      January 1, 2018



Militant/Baskaran Appu
Members of Rail and Maritime Transport Union picket Papakura Train Station in Auckland, New Zealand, during one-day strike Dec. 8 to protest plans to cut train crew to one worker.

Rail workers fight bosses’ plan for driver-only trains

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.

— Baskaran Appu

Kazakh miners organize sit-in to fight for wages, safety

Some 680 coal miners in north-central Kazakhstan stayed underground Dec. 11-14, halting production and occupying the ArcelorMittal mine in Shakhtinsk to press their fight for wages, safety and other demands. The miners, members of the Trade Union of Mining and Metallurgy Workers of the Republic of Kazakhstan, extended their action from four to eight ArcelorMittal mines Dec. 12. Family members and other miners brought food and clothing, sending them down to the mine floor to sustain the striking workers.

Kazakhstan authorities declared the strike illegal but agreed not to prosecute miners on their return to work.

The unionists won a 30 percent wage increase for underground miners. Negotiations will continue on wage rates for surface workers and on the miners’ demands for a reduction in the retirement age, additional safety measures and an improvement in the infrastructure of their hometown Shakhtinsk.

In August three miners died after a gas leak at the Qazaqstan mine there. “The technical equipment at the mine is lagging behind the Russian and Ukrainian mines,” stated Marat Mirgayazov, chairman of the Mineworkers’ Union Korgau at ArcelorMittal Temirtau.

The sit-in was the country’s largest strike since cops shot dead 14 people during an oil workers strike in 2011.

In January courts shut down the Confederation of Independent Trade Unions of Kazakhstan. In July the confederation’s president, Larisa Kharkova, was convicted on frame-up charges of “abuse of office” and banned from holding any position in a trade union, for five years.

— Terry Evans

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Migrant workers in Beijing mobilize to protest evictions
Quebec: Frame-up case against rail workers unravels
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