Monday 21st Jan, 2019

Rail union expects strike vote result Friday

Crowding Sydney Trains. Photo: Transport for NSW
Photo: Transport for NSW

The Rail, Tram and Bus Union expects to hear the result of its Sydney Trains members’ strike vote by Friday afternoon, as tensions continue between the operator and its workforce over network disruptions led to a blame game earlier this week.

A statement from the union on Thursday evening said the vote, which is conducted by the Australian Electoral Commission on behalf of the union, would not necessarily decide if a strike would take place.

“It is important to note that the results of this ballot, if successful, will mean that workers will have the option of taking protected industrial action,” the statement said.

“It’s important to stress that at this stage, no action is being undertaken. Workers are required to give adequate notice of any industrial action planned, should the ballot be successful.”

The union is angry with the State Government and Sydney Trains for, in the union’s view, blaming drivers for extensive delays experienced on the network earlier this week.

One of the several reasons stated for the delays was an unusually-high number of workers on illness leave.

But the union says the newly-introduced timetable is to blame for the disruptions.

The union says it was not properly consulted on the timetable, which was introduced in December, and added 1,500 new services per week.

RTBU NSW secretary Alex Claassens said the union had finally had the chance to meet with Transport for NSW and Sydney Trains this week to properly discuss the timetable.

“It’s incredibly disappointing that it’s taken it to get to breaking point before management finally decided they needed to meet with the people who actually know how our transport system works, but we’re glad that it has finally happened,” Claassens said on Thursday.

“There will now be a series of high level meetings which will include representatives from all key stakeholders, including the workers who are running our trains.

“We’ve still got a long way to go, but this is a good first step. As the Transport Minister and management should now know, you can’t make changes to a timetable hastily. We need to sit down and try to nut out some very serious issues.”

Sydney Business Chamber executive director Patricia Forsythe has called for the union to aim to be part of the solution, and has called for an end to finger-pointing.

“Business welcomed the November timetable changes because they were designed to add more services and provide more seats but we did that in the belief that it represented a step forward in meeting Sydney’s public transport needs and we need to know that reliability has not been sacrificed,” Forsythe said.

“A pleasing improvement in Sydney trains has been seen in the past five years, including better customer focus, cleanliness, station upgrades and efficient ticketing, but [the major disruptions] put the well-earned reputation of a great system at risk.”

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