New South Wales premier accuses union and Labor of causing ‘massive disruption’ to state rail network after all services were canceled leaving thousands of commuters stranded morning rush hour.
The closure of Sydney’s rail network on Monday, ordered by state government transport authorities just after midnight, has left rail commuters blind who have been left in limbo across Sydney, Newcastle, the Central Coast, the Blues Mountains and Illawarra.
Dominic Perrottet said the closure was prompted by the rail, tram and bus union’s failure to show up for industrial talks on Sunday and was part of a ‘coordinated and concerted attack’ on the government by union and labour.
“It’s Labor in bed with the labor movement to cause massive disruption…Labour-backed unions have been working on these strikes for many months,” Mr Perrottet told reporters.
He was angry that the trains were out of service on a day when Australia’s borders opened to international arrivals after a two-year hiatus, as children tried to get to school and university students returned to campus .
The RTBU blamed the transport chaos on the government, saying railway workers showed up for work but the Perrottet administration used a ‘high-stakes tactic’ to cancel services and then ‘blamed it on the industrial action”.
“Let’s make it right: rail services can continue to operate. Prime Minister Dominic Perrottet has shut them down,” the union said on Twitter.
RTBU NSW secretary Alex Claassens insisted the railway workers were not on strike and were ready to get trains running again ‘by the minute’.
“It’s not about the money. It’s always been about security, about protecting against privatization,” he said at Sydney Central Station.
Transport Minister David Elliott called the closure a “flash strike” and called on the union to return to the bargaining table with “clean hands”.
He said the RTBU wanted the government to hunker down on industrial demands in a bid to damage it 12 months before an election.
“I think we’re going to have a big stalemate right now because they can’t use Sydney’s transport system for some sort of terrorism-type activity.”
Transport for NSW canceled trains, saying industrial action made it impossible to operate services safely.
The row is part of a long-running industrial dispute over a new company deal, with the government and union locked in a bitter industrial dispute since 2021 over safety guarantees, hygiene and privatization issues that have resulted in two work stoppages since September.
NSW Employee Relations Minister Damien Tudehope said a meeting with the union on Sunday evening failed to produce a deal that worked for all parties.
The worklists were “at the heart” of the dispute and meant the rail system would not have been operating according to a government schedule on Monday, triggering the network shutdown.
“Sydney Trains felt that we could not properly, reliably and safely operate trains in Sydney,” he said.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison condemned the union for leaving commuters stranded, saying it was disrespectful to fellow Sydneysiders trying to get children to school.
“It’s just not how you behave and it’s not how you treat your fellow citizens,” Mr Morrison said.
A hearing to resolve the crisis is currently underway at the Fair Work Commission in Sydney, but no outcome is expected today, a union spokesperson told AAP.
Commuters are encouraged to use alternate modes of transportation and allow extra time for travel.
Australian Associated Press