Thousands of commuters will be stranded across NSW this week as train services are cut by up to 75 percent during a week of chaotic industrial action.
Rail workers have launched protected industrial action in response to ongoing safety concerns, including the operation of an intercity fleet built in South Korea that the union has deemed unsafe.
The commuter chaos marks the beginning of a week of mayhem across Sydney, with nurses and teachers preparing to launch industrial action later this week.
The action will begin on Tuesday, with commuters urged to expect “significant disruption” as trains will be restricted to a maximum speed of 60km/h.
The “go slow” will reduce peak hour services by 50 percent.
Camera IconRail workers are set to strike this week. NCA NewsWire / Flavio Brancaleone Credit: News Corp Australia
On Wednesday, union members will be banned indefinitely from returning to the rail operations center.
Train drivers will refuse to travel outside their home depot on Thursday when an indefinite ban on work relating to Sydney Metro will be enacted.
On Friday, rail workers will refuse to operate trains made overseas, constituting three–quarters of the state’s train services.
Transport for NSW estimates up to 75 percent of train services will need to be slashed on Thursday and Friday, with a limited number of buses available to service the routes.
Transport for NSW said it would attempt to limit the impact on customers as NSW prepares for the school holidays.
“The protected industrial action is expected to cause delays and the increasing cancellation of services across the week, with Sydney Trains and NSW TrainLink working to assess the full impacts and provide alternative travel arrangements for customers where possible,” a statement read.
Camera IconCommuters will be in chaos with four days of industrial action. NCA NewsWire / Flavio Brancaleone Credit: News Corp Australia
Commuters are urged to have a backup plan for traveling around the state, with regional services also expected to be impacted.
Rail, Tram, and Bus Union NSW secretary Alex Claassens said rail workers were reluctant to strike, but the government had forced their hand.
“All we want is for the government to deliver on the basic safety and workforce issues that we’ve been discussing for many months,” he said.
“This has always been about safety for us.”
NSW Transport Minister David Elliott told 2GB’s Ben Fordham that he was “disappointed” the union had decided to strike while negotiations were ongoing.
He said the government made “quite a generous” offer on Friday to the Rail, Tram, and Bus Union, includingeeteners such as additional leave benefits and a one-off payment of more than $300insteadeu of back pay.
In a statement, Mr. Elliott requested that the industrial action be withdrawn after “engaging in good faith bargaining”.
Camera IconThe industrial action is expected to impact the entire state. NCA NewsWire / Flavio Brancaleone Credit: News Corp Australia
Trains were halted in February when talks broke down between the NSW government and the Public Service Union. While workers were adamant they were not on strike, each party blamed the other for the shutdown.
The expected delays mark another display of dissatisfaction by public sector workers during what has been dubbed “the year of the strike”.
Nurses and midwives are expected to walk off the job for 24 hours on Tuesday to protest staff shortages and a “sheer lack of government support”. However, the union has assured the public that enough staff will remain on duty to care for patients.
On Thursday, public and Catholic school teachers will strike together in a historic joint action.
The chaotic week of public sector strikes comes only a few days after the NSW government announced it plans to increase fines for illegal industrial action. Under the proposed changes, unions would be fined up to $55,000 for the first day of action and $27,500 for each following day.
“Illegal strike action has had incredibly damaging consequences for students, families, and workers across the state,” Finance and Employee Relations Minister Damien Tudehope said.
Camera IconRail workers say they are concerned about the safety of the new intercity fleet. NCA NewsWire / Flavio Brancaleone Credit: News Corp Australia
“We want to stop this sort of disruption and disorder and use the established mechanisms of the Industrial Relations Commission to resolve disputes without hurting innocent citizens.”
However, Public Service Association of NSW general secretary Stewart Little noted NSW was one of the only jurisdictions in the world where workers were fined for taking industrial action.
“Public sector workers have a deep sense of public duty and don’t strike lightly. They’ll only take industrial action when a government has mismanaged things to the point of crisis,” he said.
“(The NSW government has) spent a decade lighting a hundred separate bin fires across the state, and now Damien Tudehope reckons he can bully frontline workers into staying silent about them.”