RTBU members force safety regulator back to the drawing board

RTBU members have forced the rail regulator to re-write its controversial proposal for mandatory audio and visual in-cab recording devices in all Australian trains.


The Office of the National Rail Safety Regulator (ONRSR) was seeking to give rail operators wide-ranging access to in-cab audio and video recordings for “proactive compliance and monitoring” – or, in other words, constant workplace surveillance.

With the proposal set to go to a meeting of Federal, State and Territory Transport Ministers in late May, hundreds of RTBU members clicked into gear by emailing their concerns to the Ministers, while over 1,000 people signed an online petition.

The RTBU National Office also contacted each of the State and Territory Ministers to demand that they vote against the proposal.

Our message was heard, and ONRSR was told to go back to the drawing board.

ONRSR has now backflipped on its original proposal, and has agreed that in-cab audio video recordings should only be accessed for the purposes of an investigation into a notifiable safety incident. Aside from occasionally testing the recording equipment (under strict protocols), operators will not be granted ANY exemptions for accessing recordings.

Fundamentally Opposed

National Secretary Mark Diamond said the RTBU remained fundamentally opposed to in-cab recording devices as a matter of principle.

“Train cabins are workplaces, but they also serve as mobile meal rooms, change and spaces for private conversations.

“No Australian worker would accept being subject to this level of micro- surveillance as they go about their daily tasks.

“Unfortunately, there’s no legal barrier to stop the regulator or operators from sticking cameras and microphones in train cabins if they want to, so we could not fight this proposal in the court room.

“It was the strength and solidarity of our national union that carried the day forced ONRSR to abandon the worst aspects of the in-cab proposal.

“ONRSR has now agreed that there will be no mandatory live feeds of data, and no employer access to recordings for disciplinary purposes unless it’s directly related to a notifiable safety breach.

“These are important concessions that will protect the privacy and dignity
of rail workers, and particularly train drivers – especially compared to the ‘anything goes’ surveillance scenario that rail workers were facing just a few weeks ago.”

The National Locomotive Division met to on Tuesday 13 July to discuss ONRSR’s latest position. We will continue negotiating with ONRSR to get the best possible outcome for members.