Major train disruptions are set to return this month as NSW’s rail union reveals employees will strike every week to the end of August.
It comes after more than a year of negotiations between the state government and the Rail Tram and Bus Union (RTBU) over work conditions have failed to satisfy either party.
The major sticking point is the union’s claim that recently purchased New Intercity Fleet trains do not meet their safety requirements.
“We’ve done everything by the book in order to get these vital safety changes, but the government is refusing to listen,” RTBU NSW secretary Alex Claassens said in a statement on Tuesday.
“This is our only way of making sure that the safety changes that need to be made will actually be made.”
Strike action will begin this Sunday with a small gift to Sydney public transport users in the way of a ban on issuing fines and caution notices.
The real strike action begins next Wednesday as travelers on the T4 Eastern Suburbs and Illawarra line that runs towards Cronulla and Wollongong will have to make alternative travel arrangements for six hours.
Between the hours of 10am and 4pm, trains will not run on this line.
“It is frustrating,” Sydney Trains chief executive Matt Longland told 2GB radio station on Tuesday.
“We’ve been dealing now for more than 12 months working with unions as we navigate our way to a new enterprise agreement.”
Three more six-hour strikes will take place on August 17, 23 and 25 and will pinpoint different regions of the train network.
“We’ll do our best to minimize impacts to customers. There’s a whole lot of action that we’re managing around infrastructure and cleaning and those sort of things,” Mr Longland said.
The Sydney Trains boss is encouraging customers to use existing light rail and bus services while train lines are not running.
However, there are not enough replacement buses to cover such widespread outages.
“We only have a limited number of buses to be able to replace trains and the reality is we can’t provide that many buses,” Mr Longland said.
“I do want to acknowledge the frustration of customers and thank them for their patience.”
He is confident that the union and government are “very close” to finalizing the enterprise agreement.
“We are working really hard to get this resolved and we are certainly hopeful working with Minister Elliot that we can get an outcome,” he said.
Schedule for rail strike action in August:
August 7: Ban on transport officers issuing ends and cautions begins
August 10: Strike on T4 Eastern Suburbs and Illawarra line, including Bondi Junction 10am – 4pm
August 12: Ban on cleaners using vacuum cleaners or scrubbing machines
August 13: Station staff to leave all gates open at all times
August 15: Train crew to only operate trains that meet maintenance center minimum standards
August 17: Strike in T2 Inner West and Leppington line and some regional lines, 10am – 4pm
August 23: Strike on unidentified line, 10am – 4pm
August 25: Strike on unidentified line, 10am – 4pm
August 31: Ban on operating foreign-made trains