Union: Drivers not scapegoats for Metrorail

2011-06-10 16:14

Johannesburg - Train drivers are not prepared to be "scapegoats" for Metrorail's system failures, the United Transport and Allied Workers' Union (Utatu) said on Friday.

"Even though they are made to battle daily with unsafe trains and unreliable signalling systems, Utatu's Metrorail train drivers are prepared to walk that extra mile to co-operate with management to make Metrorail’s train services safer," Utatu general secretary Chris de Vos said in a statement.

"But they are not prepared to be made the scapegoats for the system's failures."

‘Illegal and cowardly act’

De Vos said Metrorail was shifting the blame for its unreliable trains onto its drivers.

"... It is arbitrarily dismissing train drivers whom it accuses of safety breaches.

"This illegal and cowardly action is in direct contravention to the labour laws which determine that employees accused of breaching regulations are entitled to a fair hearing in which all of the factors related to the incident are fully aired," he said.

On Wednesday, Metrorail announced that one of its drivers was fired after being found guilty of causing R12m in damage when he slammed into the back of a goods train on January 2.

A disciplinary hearing found the driver guilty of speeding and ignoring two danger signals.

The damages included the loss of three trailers and two motor coaches.

A metro guard in the driver's cabin was injured and spent three months in hospital.

Fair hearing

Nineteen Metrorail drivers were facing disciplinary hearings for offences ranging from speeding to not heeding danger signals.

Metrorail came under fire for its safety standards after two trains crashed into each other in Soweto in May because of a driver error.

De Vos said "even if it means having to bring Metrorail’s services to a halt" the union would ensure drivers received a fair hearing.

Obsolete rolling stock

"In Utatu’s view, the present approach to safety issues of Metrorail’s CEO, Lucky Montana, is irrational.

"He is on record on the hazards of his company's obsolete rolling stock. He also knows that unlike most of the world's rail systems, his company has not invested in the Automatic Train Stop (ATS) system that safeguards train drivers, trains and their passengers," he said.

"Yet he persists in shifting the blame for his company's accidents on to the unfortunate personnel who have to battle with his company's defective systems."

Metrorail spokesperson Tony Games said drivers underwent disciplinary processes before being fired and unions were generally present with their members during those hearings.

He said of the driver found guilty of speeding and fired thereafter, that there was a "lengthy" disciplinary process which included an investigation into the cause of the accident.

  • saabnut - 2011-06-10 16:45

    Ah come on guys. Why don't the UTATU members just burn or stone something- isn't that the union way?

      kalabafazi - 2011-06-10 17:27

      They spent two days trying to siphon petrol from a electric locomotive before they gave up.

  • kalabafazi - 2011-06-10 17:26

    "A disciplinary hearing found the driver guilty of speeding and ignoring two danger signals." And how is that Metro rails fault? Clearly the driver was being irresponsible. If metro rails equipment is not being properly maintained, and I'm sure it is not (based on the way other parastals are run) then sure, they need to be brought to book. But if the driver is at fault then he sure isn't being used as a scape goat. I think Utatu is upset as they are loosing members quicker than they can sign them up.

  • Are_U_Sure - 2011-06-10 17:33

    Quote: "Nineteen Metrorail drivers were facing disciplinary hearings for offences ranging from speeding to not heeding danger signals." Ok, how is that Metro Rails fault? Is it training, lack of discipline? Bad management? Ok, that can be sorted first. Once that is done, and staff still speed and ignore danger signals, can they be fired on teh spot?

      Zion - 2011-06-10 17:55

      No, any dismissal must be preceded by a valid investigation and hearing. The trouble with a valid investigation and hearing is there will always be somebody who will pick the threads out of the outcome on some or other technicality. That is one of the reason why the government service is filled with criminals.

  • onetickie - 2011-06-10 17:41

    Here we go ... we all predicted it. So effing typical and then we are asked, on the same page "TO BE PART OF THE SOLUTION".

      Zion - 2011-06-11 14:52

      What solution. The only solution I know is that in a brandy bottle

  • ftjsmit - 2011-06-10 18:32

    I wonder if UTATU realises that in countries where they deploy automatic train protection systems they also have driver less trains? They better watch out soon metro rail will lay of it's drivers too and we most likely have a safer system!

      Worldwise - 2011-06-11 13:49

      Where are the driverless trains? I have travelled on rail systems all over the world and the only driverless train I have ever come across is at Terminal 5 Heathrow Airport in the UK. This trip is also only about 300m long from one part of the terminal to the other in a tunnel. Even with massive protection systems, all the trains I have travelled on have had drivers. There is no computer substitute for a thinking Human Being.

  • Mike - 2011-06-11 09:46

    Metro rail is just as guilty as the drivers. There no apprenticeship to be a train driver anymore so any kippy that has 3 months training is now given the job (afirmitive action). The safety control officerers don't have the knowledge all the top guys have been retrenched so have the technicians that maintain the signals system. Fire the lot that are just filling post thru bbeee, they're bloody useless and don't take their jobs seriously.

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