One-third of qualified train drivers recruited for Melbourne were poached from NSW

While the industrial wrangle over Korean-built trains continues, NSW Transport Minister David Elliott is enjoying a European getaway. <i>Photo: AAP</i>

While the industrial wrangle over Korean-built trains continues, NSW Transport Minister David Elliott is enjoying a European getaway. Photo: AAP

One-third of qualified train drivers recruited last year by Victoria’s Metro Trains were poached from New South Wales, The New Daily can reveal.

Sydney’s rail network has buckled in recent weeks as a new and more intensive timetable slathered on 1500 extra weekly services. And a dispute over pay and conditions, including unreasonable overtime hours, almost culminated in a 24-hour strike on Monday.

Drivers have widely claimed Sydney Trains crew were moving interstate for better pay and a lower cost of living.

The New Daily can now reveal the extent that drivers are drawn to Victoria’s Metro Trains.

The Melbourne network last year hired 154 drivers, 100 of which were trainees. The remaining 54 were qualified drivers, 18 of which were from NSW.

It means about 33.3 per cent of qualified drivers were NSW defectors, or 11.6 per cent of all the new hires.

Comparatively, 11 came from Queensland (about one-fifth of qualified drivers), nine were from New Zealand and eight from Victoria. The remaining eight were in smaller numbers from other states.

sydney trains - metro trains - drivers

Metro Trains hired 54 qualified train drivers last year – one-third of which were from NSW.

Metro Trains had specifically targeted drivers from other Australian states and New Zealand, marketing better pay and lifestyle.

“Right now, we’re looking to hire qualified train drivers with a minimum of two years’ experience who want to take their career in a different direction, and enjoy a whole new lifestyle in the world’s most liveable city,” campaign material supplied to The New Daily said.

“As Australia’s Large Employer of the Year we put our employees first, with competitive salaries, relocation benefits and a new streamlined training program that gets you on the tracks sooner.”

metro trains recruitment drive v sydney trains

Metro Trains specifically targeted drivers from other Australian states and New Zealand, by marketing better pay and lifestyle. Photo: Metro Trains

The loss of 18 NSW drivers would represent about 1.5 per cent of Sydney Trains’ total 1170 drivers.

Meanwhile, Sydney Trains netted a total of 22 train crew between 2013/14 and 2016/17 financial years – a 0.89 per cent gain over three years.

NSW Transport Minister Andrew Constance on Monday admitted there was a shortfall in staffing. He told 2GB that 165 drivers were coming onto the network in the next six months, and 18 new staff members were starting within the next fortnight.

The department is understood to have hired 226 trainee drivers since 2016.

“What everyone forgets is a driver can give two weeks’ notice and they’re gone, but it takes 12 months to train up a driver in NSW,” Mr Constance told 2GB.

sydney trains nsw - metro trains

Sydney Trains netted 22 train crew from the 13/14 financial year to 16/17, an increase of 0.9 per cent over three years. Comparatively, NSW lost 18 drivers to Metro Trains last year.

The New Daily only requested Metro Trains figures on drivers, not total train crew. It does not include data from Victoria’s regional operator, V/Line.

Jodi McKay, Shadow Transport Minister, said the figures proved “the level of disaffection among the transport workforce in NSW”.

“For two years the transport minister has goaded drivers with the boast that he can’t wait to replace them with driverless trains, despite relying on them to do overtime to deliver the extra train services of his timetable,” she told The New Daily.

“Andrew Constance has done nothing to keep drivers here in NSW and everything to push them away.”

Queensland did not appear to have benefited from the dispute. A government spokesperson told The New Daily no NSW applicants were hired last year.

“In August of 2017, Queensland Rail invited internal and external applicants to apply for trainee guard and trainee driver roles.

“No applicants from NSW have been selected to date.”

Queensland requires drivers qualified in other jurisdictions to go through training.

Sydney driver Sarah, not her real name, last week told The New Daily that workers were looking interstate.

Melbourne and Brisbane are going to benefit from the conflict here in Sydney as lots of staff have left for positions in those cities, or are planning to.

Mr Constance on Monday said he would investigate claims Sydney train workers were moving to Melbourne’s private network.

“But the point that I would make is we’re trying to make a pay offer to them which is affordable for the taxpayer and for the commuter who has to pay fares, and at the same time making sure that we retain people.”

Mr Constance and Sydney Trains were approached for comment.

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