NSW bus, train drivers strike over wages, privatization

The railway workers again initiated union action on December 14 to demand a salary increase, against privatization and safety guarantees on the new rail fleet.

Union of Railways, Tramways and Buses (RTBU) secretary Alex Claassens said on December 13 that the union acted because the government had refused for months to negotiate guarantees on the hygiene, security and privatization ”. He also wants a 3.5% wage increase.

Metro bus and train drivers also took action on December 6 and 7, targeting Sydney’s transport network and train services to the Hunter Valley, Blue Mountains and the Central Coast.

Western interior bus drivers also struck on December 6 and were joined by drivers from southwest Sydney the next day. They demand that private contractor Transit Systems abandon its discriminatory two-tier pay system.

Transport Workers Union (TWU), NSW Secretary Richard Olsen said private sector bus drivers were working under an inferior company deal. “This [agreement] has been off its nominal term for well over six months, but the company is still not ready to meet.

The railway workers’ union wants an end to privatizations, the maintenance of safety standards and the government’s commitment to maintain higher levels of hygiene and not to outsource the work to a contractor.

“[The NSW government] bought all these new trains from South Korea that have been there for months, but we can’t get them to work because they’re not safe, ”Claassens told 9News Today on Dec. 7.

NSW trade union secretary Mark Morey said more industrial action was likely “unless the government takes … responsibility”. “These cases have been going on for several months now, but the blame can be firmly placed on the feet of Prime Minister Dominic Perrottet and Matt Kean, the treasurer,” he said on December 7. ABC.

RTBU has already announced an 8-hour train stop on December 20 and 21.

A key factor behind the industrial action is the government’s privatization plans for the entire bus network and the sale of the rail system.

The entry into service, in 2019, of the Sydney Metro Northwest line, with its autonomous trainsets, and the development of the Sydney Metro and Southwest lines show that the privatization plans are well underway. This government wants to privatize the entire public transport system across Sydney and the state.

Unions fear that the new regional intercity fleet offered only for drivers, which will eliminate guards, poses a serious security threat, as well as an attack on public sector jobs.

RTBU said on December 13 that the government had to “tear up the contract” with Construction & Other Railway Services (CAF), the Spanish company tasked with manufacturing a new fleet of trains for the regional NSW. The CAF is also responsible for the problems of cracking of the fleet of trams in the center-west, which are currently all broken down.

Claassens said it would be irresponsible for the government to push CAF’s contract for the new regional fleet forward in the face of workers’ concerns. “The NSW government must suspend all overseas manufacturing contracts,” Claassens said, adding that workers were already concerned about the safety of these new trains before CAF’s shocking track record. be revealed.

He said the new regional fleet was built in such a way that the front cart could easily derail if it struck a fallen tree or an animal on the tracks. “This is a serious concern given that in Australia, especially in regional Australia, hitting things on our tracks is commonplace. “

RTBU understands that the government signed a contract with CAF, although the final design was not agreed.

Claassens criticized the government for: purchasing trains requiring infrastructure changes; blowing billions on a poorly managed streetcar construction; for allowing a new fleet of trains to sit idle “because they are too dangerous to operate”; and for having spent “enormous sums of money to repair the central-west tram”.

“Now they want to buy another fleet of trains overseas from a manufacturer who has already proven to deliver questionable rolling stock,” he said. RTBU calls for a quota on infrastructure built in Australia to “prioritize the safety of commuters and workers”.

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