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Tuesday, 17 February 1987
Page: 29

(Question No. 1530)

Senator Hamer asked the Minister represen-ting the Minister for Transport, upon notice, on 19 November 1986:

(1) What restrictive work practices are in force at the Australian National Railways Commission, which, in the opinion of management, reduce productivity without any compensatory safety or industrial health benefits.

(2) What restrictive work practices in force at the Australian National Railways Commission, while having some safety or industrial health benefits, are done in such a way that comparable benefits could be achieved with less loss of productivity.

(3) What new restrictive work practices, of the type noted above, have come into force in the last year.

(4) What restrictive work practices, of the type noted above, have been eliminated in the past year and what have been the benefits to productivity in each case.

(5) Has the management advised the Minister for Transport of the total annual cost of these restrictive work practices; if so, what is the total annual cost of these restrictive work practices.

Senator Gietzelt —The Minister for Transport has provided the following answer to the honourable senator's question:

(1) to (5) The Australian National Railways Commission (AN) has pursued the modification and/or elimination of work practices and staff levels which impact upon the efficiency and productivity of AN since amalgamation in 1978.

AN has advised that it conducts an on-going review of employment levels. AN staff levels have been reduced by 3,527 (32 percent) since 1978. Over the same period there has been a 48 percent increase in traffic. Productivity per employee has increased by 115 percent between the years ending 30 June 1978 and 30 June 1986.

Efficiency improvements have been achieved through a range of measures including rationalisation of catering staff and conductors on interstate passenger trains, introduction of two-person crewed freight trains, changes in train safe-working practices, train examination and freight handling. Attention has also been given to certain restrictive work practices as cost off-sets during negotiations with relevant unions regarding the introduction of a 38 hour week.

Numerous other management initiatives have been implemented since amalgamation with the aim of achieving optimum efficiency and productivity, including rationalisation in all areas. Changes in work methods and modification/elimination of restrictive work practices have been an integral part of these changes. Further studies are currently being undertaken to identify opportunities for rationalisation in mechanical workshops at Islington and Launceston, and also in other areas.

The improvement in AN's financial performance is reflected in the level of the revenue support provided by the Government. This has been reduced from $106m in 1982/83 to $64.5m in 1986/87, or more than halved in real terms.