Train drivers prepared to strike
Sydney train drivers have voted overwhelmingly for industrial action — with 94 per cent voting for strikes in a ballot announced last night. But it appears unlikely any action will take the form of a strike initially and will more likely involve some lesser measure such as overtime bans.
A strike would be a disaster for the state government and Transport Minister Andrew Constance, who is already reeling from two days of delays this week because of lightning strikes, drivers calling in sick and difficulties associated with a new timetable.
The Rail, Tram and Bus Union is seeking a pay increase of 6 per cent a year over four years for train drivers and guards — up from the government’s 2.5 per cent a year wages cap.
The ballot for protected industrial action saw 94 per cent of Sydney Trains workers supporting stoppages of up to 72 hours, 84 per cent supporting a oneweek or indefinite strike and 90 per cent supporting partial work bans or overtime bans.
In a statement last night, Alex Claassens, the NSW secretary of the Rail, Tram and Bus Union, said: “What this means is that the option to take various forms of protected industrial action is now live, but we are still very hopeful we won’t have to go down that path.
“Industrial action is always a last resort. Management are in a position to avoid that situation, and we’re still very hopeful they’ll come to the table and negotiate a fair and reasonable offer before we get to the point of action.
“It’s important to stress that, at this stage, no action is being undertaken. Commuters will always be given as much notice as possible of any action.”
The enterprise agreement covers about 9000 workers employed by Sydney and NSW Trains.
“All workers are asking for is a commitment to protecting their basic workplace conditions and a fair wage increase, but management is currently refusing to provide that,” Mr Claassens said.
“We know our Transport Minister has his sights set on privatising more and more of our transport services, and workers are rightly worried about what that will mean for their jobs.”