Sydney trains meltdown: NSW drivers flag strikes after voting 'yes' to protected industrial action

Sydney trains meltdown: NSW drivers flag strikes after voting 'yes' to protected industrial action

Sydney trains meltdown: NSW drivers flag strikes after voting 'yes' to protected industrial action

Updated 12 January 2018, 18:15 AEDT

Sydney and NSW train drivers warn management to "prepare for action" after voting 'yes' to the possibility of taking a strike of up to 72 hours over pay and conditions.

Sydney and NSW train drivers have warned management to "prepare for action" after voting 'yes' to taking protected industrial action, paving the way for a strike.

The successful ballot is a warning there may be more rail network meltdowns, following two days of commuter chaos this week which was blamed on everything from sick drivers to an act of God.

The Rail Bus and Tram Union (RBTU) says they are forced to take action because management refuses to negotiate a fair and reasonable enterprise agreement.

Following six months of negotiations, the RBTU says Sydney and NSW Trains management have refused to provide certainty around days off and commitment to protecting workers' conditions in the event of privatisation.

The enterprise agreement in question covers about 9,000 workers employed by Sydney and NSW Trains.

"All workers are asking for is a commitment to protecting their basic workplace conditions and a fair wage increase," secretary Alex Claassens said.

"The Transport Minister will no doubt try to make our workers look greedy — he always does — but that couldn't be further from the case.

"After years of putting up with job cuts, service cuts and now the active threat of the privatisation of transport services and the unworkable new timetable, all workers want is a bit of certainty."

Mr Claassens said the disrespectful way the workers who keep the public transport system ticking had been treated by Transport Minister Andrew Constance was a shock.

Put customers first: Constance

Mr Constance has urged the union to put the needs of customers before "unnecessary" strike action.

He said Sydney Trains would continue to negotiate in good faith despite union bosses' demands for a 24 per cent pay rise over four years.

"The Government will agree to a pay rise for train drivers in accordance with the wages policy — a policy that applies to teachers, nurses, police and all public sector employees," he said.

The Minister highlighted that out of the 9,550 Sydney Trains staff, only 3,007 voted for strike action.

"Even amongst RTBU members only 48 per cent voted for strikes — this is not the clear-cut majority that union bosses were hoping for," Mr Constance said.

A spokesperson for Sydney Trains said they were "disappointed" staff voted to take action but negotiations with the rail unions would continue.

"We believe we are closer to resolving the outstanding issues," the spokesperson said.

"In the event … [of] planned industrial action we will notify customers of the network impacts and possible alternative transport options where possible."

Union hopeful action won't be needed

Delegate and member meetings in workplaces will occur over the coming days to decide on what action to take.

"Industrial action is always a last resort," Mr Claassens said.

"Management are in a position to avoid that situation, and we're still very hopeful they'll come to the table and negotiate a fair and reasonable offer before we get to the point of action."

Notice must be given if action is planned, with the Fair Work Commission requiring three to seven working days' notice depending on the action.

Of the Sydney Trains employees who voted, 94 per cent said yes to a stoppage of up to 72 hours.

And 90 per cent of NSW Trains employees who voted also said yes to a stoppage.

The RBTU placed the blame for this week's train system disaster, where passengers were delayed for hours, on Sydney Trains management.

The union argued there were not enough drivers for the extra services introduced under a new timetable that started last November.