In the wake of this week's crippling commuter chaos it has been revealed that Sydney Trains' bosses are earning more than the PM thanks to extraordinary salary increases.
While Sydney Trains boss Howard Collins was laughing at the Rail, Tram and Bus Union’s (RTBU) push for a 6% pay rise for rail staff, the Daily Telegraph has learned that he and his fellow top executives received an average salary increase of 9% in the last year.
As revealed today, the four leading executives of Sydney Trains saw their pay packets swell by an average of $40,000 from $453,212 in 2015-16 to $495,605 in 2016-17.
Collins, who said on Wednesday that commuters would be “aghast” to hear the union was looking for a 6% raise for its workers, pockets $695,000 — approximately $150k more than Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.
While Transport for NSW Secretary Rod Staples — the other administrator ordered to explain this week’s chaos — reportedly earns a whopping salary of $555,150, plus potential performance bonuses this year.
RTBU NSW Secretary Alex Claassens told the Telegraph the union’s members would be “angry” when this comes to light.
“Our workers are doing more with less and they deserve a fair pay rise,” he said.
“No one is expecting us realistically to get a raise of six… that is our starting point.”
The wage increases for the top bureaucrats exceeds the 2.5% cap for the state’s public servants. Transport Minister Andrew Constance said it was either a reward for performance or remuneration for extra responsibilities.
The latter was the case for Collins, who has taken on the role of acting chief executive of NSW Trains while CEO of Sydney Trains.
“I don’t think the union is going to begrudge someone a salary change if their job role changes,” Constance said.
“This is a man who everyday is responsible for the safety of millions of commuters and running the railway.”
But when asked why one executive’s pay rise was allowed to exceed the 2.5% cap based on performance, he said he “wasn’t across the detail”.
Rail network meltdown
It is certainly not a good look for Transport for NSW, during the week from hell for Sydney rail-riders.
On Monday and Tuesday particularly, there were cancelled services, passengers barred from platforms and hours of unexplained delays, compounded by the brutal heatwave the city experienced.
Transport Minister Andrew Constance threw up a handful of excuses including lightning strikes hitting infrastructure (which he labelled “an act of God”), staff calling in sick, a new timetable with 1500 extra services, a spike in passengers, not enough drivers, and even the interconnectivity of train lines with the City Circle.
But RTBU NSW pointed its finger squarely at Constance, who has since refused to refund passengers for their tickets.
“Look the person to blame for this is quite clearly the Transport Minister,” Claassens said.
“We’ve been going out the last couple of months saying to everybody that this situation was going to develop. He introduced a timetable that we just weren’t ready for, under-resourced, under-prepared, and now we’re seeing the fruits of that.”
Sydney trains cancelled for a second day in a row. "The person to blame for this is quite clearly the Transport Minister. He introduced a timetable that we were just not ready for. Under-resourced, under-prepared" – Alex Claassens –
NSW Secretary – @RTBUnion #SydneyTrains #7News pic.twitter.com/JG3A4Zgabt
— 7 News Sydney (@7NewsSydney) January 9, 2018
The chaos led to an avalanche of complaints on social media.
I was complaining about being stuck on un-air conditioned train & then I just saw the crowd waiting at the hell dimension known as Town Hall & I’m shutting my damn mouth #SydneyTrains pic.twitter.com/jjFXlgFpvx
— Maria Lewis (@moviemazz) January 9, 2018
I assume you will be refunding everyone’s opal card spend on trains both yesterday and today? We pay you to provide a service and you haven’t provided one – end of story. When should I expect a full refund? #SydneyTrains
— James Clay (@jamesroyclay) January 9, 2018
— Melissa Matheson (@Mel_Matheson) January 9, 2018
2/ My brother is a Sydney Trains driver, so this is first-hand knowledge. Sydney Trains have been severely understaffed for over a year. Not enough new drivers and train crew have been trained during this period as a cost-saving measure by the current government and middle mgt.
— Marina (@HappyNacho73) January 9, 2018
— Aden Reynolds (@adenreynolds) January 8, 2018