Build the Climate Rebellion: Back the fight of Melbourne’s train and tram workers

In the face of the climate crisis, we need a swift transition away from fossil fuels. Coalition PM Scott Morrison is heading in the wrong direction, considering new government funding to extend the life of the Liddell coal-fired power station. Government funding should go to renewables and public transport. We need to take electricity and public transport back into public hands to drive the climate transition we need.

State Labor Premier Daniel Andrews, who has criticised XR for disruption, could fund the Mildura solar power plant that Labor first promised in 2006, and expand public transport to cut emissions and reduce crowding. Without deep and immediate emissions cuts there is much more climate disruption coming.

Our current transport system is Australia’s second largest source of greenhouse gas pollution after electricity. Due to our inadequate public transport system, nearly 87 per cent of people get to work via car. To cut emissions, we need a massive expansion of free public transport.

Jobs in public transport are exactly the kind of green jobs we need to avert climate catastrophe. The fight to defend wages and conditions for tram and train workers is a climate fight that we can and should be a part of.

Yarra Trams, the private company that operates Victorian public transport, is trying to slash wages and conditions for public transport workers. They are offering a measly pay rise and threatening to increase the number of part-time workers from 4 per cent to 15 per cent. In response, tram drivers were due to go on strike this Thursday, fighting for better pay and full time work.

Unfortunately the strike has been called off after Yarra Trams CEO Nicolas Gindt asked the union to withdraw the action “in light of safety concerns around planned [Extinction Rebellion] protests”. This makes it doubly important for XR to declare its support for the public transport workers. We need mass support to win climate demands, we can’t let Yarra Trams divide us from the transport workers’ fight.

At the same time Metro Trains is forcing their workers through the courts and has legally blocked train drivers from taking strike action. If Metro wins, this will be a blow for public transport workers but also for the climate. XR groups should mobilise to support the rally against Metro on Thursday 17 October at 11.30am at Flinders St.

Australia’s anti-strike laws are already some of the most restrictive in the world. It is currently illegal to strike for the climate, but it is going to take strike action to win the kind of climate action we need—unionised workers have the potential power to shut down the public transport system demanding climate jobs.

We saw a glimmer of defiance when many workers (including a Rail, Tram & Bus Union contingent) walk out with the students for the climate strike in September. It’s going to take more of this defiance to win the mass investment in public transport that we need, along with a transition to 100 per cent publicly owned renewable energy.

XR should back the demands of the climate strike that 300,000 people marched for: 100 per cent renewable energy, no new coal, oil and gas, and to fund a just transition and job creation for fossil fuel workers and their communities.


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