The Rail, Tram and Bus 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.
Union members are soon to decide whether they will strike as part of an ongoing enterprise agreement negotiation with Sydney Trains, and one key representative has said the State Government knew there would be disruptions on the Sydney Trains network as early as last week, but chose to blame drivers for the chaos anyway.
In a letter reportedly sent to Sydney Trains boss Howard Collins – and later attained by AAP – RTBU divisional secretary Robert Hayden said the Government knew as early as Friday last week the potential impact of ‘excess leave approvals’ on Monday and Tuesday’s services.
The union says the new timetable, introduced in December, has placed an impossible burden on staff numbers, and doesn’t allow the system to recover from incidents – like the bad weather on Monday morning – as quickly as it should.
“To falsely attribute blame to train drivers may leave our members exposed to criticism, ridicule and possible attack at the hands of Sydney commuters,” Hayden wrote.
“Gaps in driver coverage are a result of a failure to recruit enough drivers in advance of the new timetables.”
Constance, speaking on 2GB Radio on Thursday morning, said there was no evidence the large number of sick leaves taken earlier in the week was any sort of union tactic.
But he said he would “stare down” any attempt at industrial action from the union, and would not negotiate the Government’s maximum 2.25% salary increase offer, despite the union’s desire for a 6% per annum growth.
“We’re happy to give an increase above inflation at the moment, with the wage cap, but 6% per annum, that’s off the charts,” Constance said.
Meanwhile, the minister has asked Sydney Trains boss Howard Collins and Transport for NSW secretary Rodd Staples for a full report into the network drama.
“I’ve asked [Collins and Staples] to report to me within a fortnight on how the network can better recover from major incidents with cumulative impacts like we’ve seen over the last few days.”
But Opposition leader Luke Foley says the Government’s prior knowledge of staff shortages demonstrates incompetence from the minister himself.
“Management knew, and this week when hundreds of thousands of people came back to work for 2018, there’s been a shambolic meltdown of the system,” Foley said on Sky News this week.