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The Sydney trains strike is cancelled, but employers still learned a lesson
Earlier this year, NSW and Sydney train employees agreed to take industrial action after workers and management failed to reach an enterprise agreement after six months of negotiations. According to the Rail Bus and Tram Union (RBTU), the action was planned off the back off bosses’ refusal to provide more structure around days off and not assuring employees their working conditions would be protected in the event of privatisation.
People travelling on the city’s rail network faced delays and cancellations last Thursday as rail workers enforced an overtime ban, affecting more than 1,000 trains across Sydney. The Fair Work Commission managed to put a stop to Monday’s planned 24-hour strike on account of it posing a threat to the economy and the public. It’s estimated that had the strike gone ahead, it would have cost businesses and the state approximately $100 million in lost revenue.
Working flexible hours in Australia
There are a number of important lessons we can take away from the planned Sydney Trains. Firstly, it’s clear that flexibility in the workplace is more critical than ever. ANZ, Westpac and other proactive businesses suggested employees work from home or take a cab on Thursday or Monday with the aim of minimising disruptions to productivity and absenteeism. Organisations without flexible working arrangements, on the other hand, would have seen major losses in revenue and reduced employee working hours.
A recent report from PwC also found that millennial workers are attracted to businesses that allow flexible working arrangements – along with opportunities for profession – more than businesses that offer financial incentives like cash bonuses. Accordingly, Australian businesses should consider adopting agile working arrangement to not only ensure they’re well-equipped to adapt to unforeseen circumstances, but also to attract and retain top talent.
What we learned about employee satisfaction
Likewise, the Sydney Trains debacle exemplifies how significantly productivity and employee satisfaction can be negatively affected when employees feel their opinions aren’t valued. A 2015 employee engagement study found that businesses that respect and listen to their employees see a continued boost in employee engagement and satisfaction compared with companies that don’t. And not surprisingly, employees who are more engaged produce better work and are less likely to call in sick or quit.
Of course, management and employees won’t always agree when it comes to issues like salary negotiation, working arrangements and so on. When a conflict does arise, though, Australian employers should have defined dispute resolution processes in place to minimise the risk of reduced productivity, low staff engagement and increased turnover rates.
Ultimately, the industrial action by Sydney Trains workers highlights what we already know about working in Australia: businesses need to embrace new, flexible ways of working and focus on employee satisfaction to retain top talent and drive success.
Are you an employer who offers flexibility? Then speak to us about finding top talent who value that.