The Rail, Tram and Bus Union’s NSW secretary Alex Claassens speaking to the media.
Despite the matter repeatedly coming before the Fair Work Commission – and a series of dramatic escalations that included the wholesale shutdown of the state’s rail network – no agreement has been reached between the warring parties.
After a brief ceasefire, the chaos on Sydney’s rail network is set to resume next week after the RTBU rejected the government’s latest pay offer.
Next week workers will refuse to operate overseas-built trains, which account for about 70% of all train services, severely reducing the frequency of services.
The union said earlier this month that industrial action will continue to escalate, with members planning stopping work for up to four hours on 2 December, a step which could grind the entire network to a halt.
The workers are asking the NSW Government for improvements to health and safety, job security, fair pay rises and a guarantee that no train services will be privatised.
However, the big sticking point is the safety of new intercity trains. Train drivers and guards say the trains have a number of critical safety problems, including:
Guard doors which automatically lock on departure and arrival from stations, preventing guards from assisting passengers;
Station-view CCTV cameras on trains which have a blind spot below 1.1 metres. Vision of children, prams, and guide dogs would be impaired by this CCTV camera blind spot.
CCTV camera screens in the drivers cab are in the driver’s line of sight during train operation.
The NSW Government has refused to commit in writing to fixing these safety issues. This has left workers with an impossible choice – drive unsafe trains or strike.