Expect a chaotic journey to work today as Greater Sydney bus and train drivers are striking against pay and working conditions, the same day NSW public school teachers walk off the job.
The Sydney strike started yesterday with inner west bus drivers walking off the job as part of an ongoing dispute over pay equality.
The Rail Tram and Bus Union has warned travellers to expect lengthy delays as drivers in the south west refuse to drive foreign-made trains that make up 75% of the state’s fleet.
Rail workers are taking this action due to fears that the NSW government is planning to privatise train operations, as they have with bus services. 300 bus drivers are also striking over an ongoing pay and conditions dispute with Transit Systems, their new employer after privatisation.
Both groups will stage a coordinated walkout for two hours during the Friday afternoon peak and rail workers plan to hold further action next Tuesday, December 14.
The union members refusing to drive today make up three quarters of the service network, so it’s going to be a real struggle for many to get to and from work, but it’s probably going to be a great day for Uber drivers (but a terrible day for Uber customers).
Yesterday we saw 1,200 bus drivers in the inner west stop work for 24 hours, calling for government intervention as their negotiations with Transit System stalled.
The government’s schedule may be a little over-booked today as teachers across the state are striking for the first time in a decade over shortages and pay. Although, at least this means fewer frustrated commuters.
Union members are threatening a “summer of chaos” ahead with more actions planned if the government does not intervene.
Which services are being impacted?
There will be no train services running on the T5 Cumberland Line so passengers are advised to change trains at Granville.
Services will be heavily reduced for customers using the T1 North Shore & Western, T2 Inner West & Leppington, T3 Bankstown, T4 Eastern Suburbs & Illawarra, T7 Olympic Park, T8 Airport and South lines.
Replacement buses have been arranged for services running between Lidcombe and Bankstown on the T3 Bankstown Line and between Wollongong and Kiama and Wollongong and Port Kembla.
Regional trains, including those to and from the Blue Mountains, Central Coast, Newcastle, and South Coast, will run on a weekend timetable.
The Hunter Line, Southern Highlands Line, and train services between Kiama and Nowra will run as per usual.
Bus services likely to be impacted by the strike are services to Paramatta, Liverpool, and Bonnyrigg.
See Transport NSW’s list of further impacted services here.
Sydney bus drivers on private routes to strike for better pay and conditions. Fancy that. Privatisation of routes lead to a degradation of pay and conditions. Who'd have thought.
— Andrew Horton – Vaxxed to the Max (@realandrewhorto) December 5, 2021
Why is everyone striking?
Secretary of Unions NSW Mark Morey says 300 workers at the Burwood depot were striking on Monday, along with 900 others around the region, protesting a two-tier wage system and cuts to services as a result of privatisation.
The Transport Union NSW Secretary Richard Olsen has said the government need to make its contractor Transit System NSW negotiate with the union.
“We have a two-stage wage system here that does not work,” Olsen said on Monday.
The RTBU Secretary Alex Claassens says by privatising public transport, Transit System left workers at the same depots doing the same jobs but earning different amounts.
“That was done… for profit,” Claassens said.
New workers are being employed under different contracts to former government employees and are being paid less for doing the same work. That kind of thing won’t go unnoticed when everyone ends up at the same depot. People talk.
The RTBU has been negotiating agreements since the last agreement expired in May and Matt Longland, the CEO of Sydney Trains has said the strikes are disappointing after more than 40 meetings between Sydney Trains, NSW TrainLink, and the union, according to 7news.
Aside from fears of privatisation, train drivers are also worried about new trains from Korea that haven’t yet been introduced to the services but the drivers also said they’re concerned about having security guards on platforms replaced by CCTV. The drivers are concerned for the safety of workers and commuters.
Without commenting on the working conditions, Longhand has said the union has been offered a 2.5 percent pay increase including superannuation however, Mory hit back saying:
“The Reserve Bank has called for wages growth of 3 per cent, yet the country’s biggest employer, the NSW government, won’t let the moths out of its wallet.”
Longland added, “Now is not the time for the unions to be carrying out any action,”
Classes said the union was “acutely aware” of the impact that drivers refusing to driver foreign-built trains would have on commuters but the problem was just how many of those trains were in circulation.
“We know that actions like this are an inconvenience to commuters, but the ball is in the court of management and the government,” he continued.
Overall it sounds like there are a fair few issues the union members are having and they’ve chosen this incredibly public way to grab the governments attention and ask for help.
“They can stop this action by simply agreeing to workers’ basic asks around safety, hygiene and privatisation.”
Most services will be significantly reduced and commuters are advised to plan ahead. Looks like the ride-share services will have a big week.