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Mrs Pratt, who joined Sydney Trains a year ago, says there’s a reason her job pays so well.
“You’re driving a rather large piece of equipment with a rather large amount of people on it. It’s safety-critical shift work.”
While Mrs Pratt, 34, admits the generous salary was attractive, it wasn’t the only reason she joined the railway. She views it as a form of community service. And the high income allows her husband to work part-time and care for their children.
Plus, she loves her work.
“I actively enjoy the job. I enjoy driving the train. I enjoy my workmates,” she said.
Mrs Pratt used to work in a call centre, but grew tired of “talking to people constantly”. While some people might get lonely spending eight hours a day own their own, driving a train allows her some peace and quiet.
“I have four children,” she said. “I get enough noise at home. I personally enjoy the silence.”
Railway workers, including train drivers, have traditionally had high levels of unionisation, which Mrs Pratt credits with keeping the pay well above the average median full-time income of $66,040.
“Because the railway has maintained such a high level of unionism, we’ve been able to hold onto our conditions,” she said.
Mrs Pratt said some drivers “chase the overtime” by doing extra hours, with potential annual earnings rising to $130,000. An added bonus of her job is that it hasn’t left her saddled with university debt. In fact, she was paid to complete the training.
Other high-paid jobs that don’t require tertiary qualifications include state and federal members of parliament ($184,840), air traffic controllers ($143,571), miners ($116,056), crane operators ($91,649) and tanker drivers ($91,082).
These median annual taxable-income figures include not only the job’s salary, but any possible additional earnings from rent, bank interest, dividends and bonuses. They are based on the amounts people stated as their earnings before tax but after deductions on their 2015/16 tax returns.
The biggest downside to Mrs Pratt’s job, she said, is the “political noise” when there are public transport issues, and “occasionally” having to deal with rude people. Mrs Pratt said when something goes wrong across the network, she is often in the dark herself.
“You understand people’s frustration, but you can only do what you can do.”
While driving a train might sound easy, it comes with a lot of responsibility, as thousands of commuters rely on the transport every day. There is also the “very real risk you’ll hit someone”, although it’s not something she dwells on.
“If that’s the sort of thing that plays on your mind, this is not the job for you.”
One of her favourite parts of the job, Mrs Pratt said, is the absence of “emotional baggage” compared to other community service jobs such as nursing and teaching. When she clocks off for the day, she switches off and doesn’t take any work home.
“My train does not tell me stories about how badly it feels. I walk away, I’m done. I don’t have to think about it until I show up the next day.”
Mrs Pratt is firmly in the minority in a heavily male-dominated industry. Sydney Trains said one in 10 drivers are women, above the national average of 7 per cent. But it’s not something that bothers Mrs Pratt: “They’ve put a lot of effort into changing the culture.”
And while rapid technology advances will threaten many jobs in the future, Mrs Pratt is unfazed about her job security.
“I can’t see it being a huge issue, honestly.”
Josh Dye is a news reporter with The Sydney Morning Herald.