Sydney rail workers push ahead with industrial action

Photo from AAP: Transport Minister Andrew Constance lashing out at the union
Contributed from New South Wales

Sydney’s rail workers decided to go on strike, in a major escalation in their dispute with Sydney Trains.

Nearly 6,000 members of the Rail, Tram and Bus Union will walk off the job on Monday. They have also put in place an overtime ban, which started today (Thursday 25 January).

The dispute is over dissatisfaction with an offered pay deal and ongoing overwork. A big part of the problem is a new timetable that includes 1.500 extra bus, train and ferry trips, without employing the extra people needed to cover them. Consequently, those who are there have been forced to work longer hours and lose days off, under declining working conditions.

Rail, Tram and Bus Union state secretary Alex Claassens told the media the industrial action was about, “people being able to have their days off.

“Anybody that runs a business knows you can’t continually run it on overtime, and if we’re running a railway that requires people to work overtime, we’ve got real problem,” he said.

The dispute goes to the Fair Work Commission today.

In a press release, the union has called on the minister to intervene and do what must be done to end the dispute.

Alex Claassens said, “Members have made it clear that the offer put forward yesterday is not good enough, and that negotiations will need to continue before there is an offer that is up to scratch”.

“The onus is now on the Minister to bring the dispute to an end tomorrow by meeting the legitimate concerns of the workforce which is straining daily to keep the system operating under enormous pressure.

“Strike action has always been a last resort and I remain hopeful that we can make progress over the next 24 hours.

“It’s disappointing that we’re in this position. The Transport Minister has unfortunately let it get to this. He could have averted this issue a long time ago, simply by putting forward a fair and reasonable offer for the workers back then.

“There’s no doubt that a ban on overtime work will cause disruptions on the network and that’s because the Transport Minister has allowed our services to get to the point where they’re reliant on people working their rostered days off in order to keep our trains running.

“While these disruptions are regrettable, they are merely a sign of things to come if the Minister continues to run down the public transport system.

“No one wants our transport system to run smoothly more than the workers themselves do. We’ll keep commuters up-to-date with all the information we can.”

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