It’s pouring with rain and Sydney finds itself at a standstill with a second day of major rail disruption.
Cityrail has ground to a halt due to industrial action that began in the early hours of Monday, timed to coincide with the reopening of New South Wales’ international border.
Tuesday has seen only limited rail timetable return, with occasional services running every half hour. Delays are extensive, with short trips taking over an hour. The majority of commuters have opted to drive into work with those that do not have access to a car forced to squeeze into 150 buses that have been brought on to replace trains.
The chaos stems from a dispute between the NSW government and the Rail, Tram and Bus Union (RTBU). The union is demanding increased safety protections including hygiene along with concerns about privatisation. Their demands include the government promising that no jobs would be lost in privatisation, a promise that the government cannot commit to for obvious reasons.
Confusion over weekend negotiations between the Union and Fair Work has led to this week’s shutdown. The government and RTBU have issued conflicting versions of events. The Transport Minister blames the RTBU for the shutdown while the RTBU secretary insists that Union staff showed up to work only to be told that the government cancelled train services.
“We are not on strike,” insisted NSW RTBU secretary Alex Claassens. “All the people sitting in the meal rooms all across the network are ready to work at a minute’s notice.”
On Monday, NSW Transport Minister David Elliott accused the Union of engaging in ‘terrorist-like’ behaviour and criticised the Union’s press releases as ‘bullsh*t spin’.
“I think we’re going to have a large stand-off right now because they cannot use Sydney’s transport system for some sort of terrorist-like activity,” said Elliott.
“That is union spin and to say that – I’m furious about them taking the city for a ride today,” added Elliott. “Why the hell would I want a strike to occur on a Monday that universities are going back? I’m so furious.”
While the Union claims it did not strike, NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet insisted that the government had no choice but to cancel train services at midnight. “I am incredibly disappointed. I feel the anger of everyone across the city.”
Labor’s Joel Fitzgibbon mistakenly believed that Sydney workers would be sympathetic to the Union’s dispute, saying that, “When strikes are called, it is usually for complex reasons.”
The social media response was less kind, with Sydneysiders furious about having to find alternate arrangements on short notice in terrible weather.
Commuters have responded to the Union’s demands for increased hygiene during Covid by pointing out that because of Union actions, the small amount of services running on Tuesday are ‘packed’ with people squashed against each other and no social distancing in sight.