Tram and Train workers lead SA anti-privatisation campaign
On the morning of Sunday 13 October, over 2,000 tram and train workers and supporters from all walks of life rallied at Parliament House steps in Adelaide as part of a campaign led by the Rail, Tram and Bus Union(RTBU) to oppose the SA Marshall Liberal Government plan to sell off Adelaide's tram and train services to multinational corporations.
State Secretary of the RTBU Darren Phillips said RTBU members were determined to campaign as long as it takes to prevent the privatisation and if necessary reverse it if the Marshall Government went ahead with its plans in its first term of government which expires in March 2022.
The large numbers of RTBU members who turned up to the rally left no doubt that they were in this campaign for the long haul. Some RTBU members at the rally had come off night shifts with just four hours sleep to be able to travel from home to get to the Sunday morning rally.
The RTBU members were given strong support from a fellow Melbourne tram and train unionist of over 30 years, Phil, who came over especially for the rally to share his experience of the disastrous privatisation of the tram and trains in Melbourne by the Kennett Government in the 1990s.
Phil said that the selloff of trams and train services to multinational corporations in Victoria had resulted in hundreds of job losses, disregard for worker and commuter safety, poor maintenance and trams and trains frequently running late. To top it off, all the profits went overseas with as much as $350 million in just one eight-year period since privatisation. Under public ownership, any surplus from the services remained in government hands for improving services instead of filling the pockets of multinational corporations.
During the rally, the RTBU members were joined by members from a wide range of other unions and members of the general public loudly chanting "No Sale".
RTBU Secretary welcomed the support of SA Labor Party leader Peter Malinauskas when he pledged in a speech at the rally to reverse any privatisation of trams and trains made by the Marshall Government if he became Premier at the next state election in 2022. He said it is easy for Labor politicians to oppose privatisations announced by a Liberal Government. He was determined to commit now, two and a half years from the next election to declare that he would reverse any privatisation of trams and trains services in SA.
His stand was applauded by the crowd and came as a welcome surprise. South Australian working people had just endured 16 years of Rann and Weatherill Labor Governments who often spoke about assets privatised by previous Liberal Governments but who never reversed any of them!
Malinauskas's commitment to reverse any privatisation of tram and train services by a Marshall Liberal Government is a sign of the growing people's movement against privatisation across Australia and indeed many other capitalist countries. It is primarily the growing people's movement led by the workers who perform the work of both government and already privatised services that will put a halt to future privatisations and reverse services already privatised.
The RTBU organised rally on Sunday 13 October was an important part of that movement.