Union secretary Alex Claassens says its members have been left with no choice but to strike.

By Joe McDonough


Posted on January 17, 2018

NSW train workers will strike for 24 hours at the end of January, with the union saying its members are “fed up” with Transport Minister Andrew Constance.

The Rail, Tram and Bus Union (RTBU) has been trying to negotiate a blanket pay rise closer to 6% a year for the next four years than the 2.5% the government is offering.

But NSW RTBU secretary Alex Claassens says the “arrogant” minister refuses to come to the table, leaving him no choice but to “put the trains to bed” on Monday January 29 at 12.01am for 24 hours — the start of the new school year for many.

“My members are telling me they are fed up with this guy… we just won’t stand here and cop the crap that he’s thrown at us,” Claassens told reporters on Tuesday.

“We have done everything humanely possible to get this guy to come and talk to us, he’s just that arrogant that he refuses to do it.

“None of us actually want to come out and hurt the community.”

When told by David Koch on Sunrise that Constance claims he won’t talk to him, he responded by saying “he’s full of crap”.

“The reality is he sent me a text message yesterday while I was doing media with you people. He sends me a text message, says to me my door is always open for you I’m happy to chat. I do the respectful thing and text him back and say ‘listen it’s not just about my union it’s about all the other unions, and he turns around and he gives those text messages to Andrew Clennell of The Australian. That’s not the way you negotiate in Australia, I’m sorry,” he told Koch today.

“You pick up the phone, you talk to people, you come to the table and you actually give us the facts.”

Claassens said the government can avoid the potential commuter chaos by “coming back to the negotiating table with a fair agreement”.

“Workers are being stretched to capacity trying to deliver the shambolic new timetable, and now on top of all of this they’re being told they can’t be guaranteed fair conditions or pay.”

The head of the union, who’s a train driver himself, apologised to commuters and said they chose the date to give the public as much warning as possible to make alternative arrangements, but he suggests rail-riders can send a message in support of its members by staying home.

He is confident the public would hold the state government and Sydney and NSW Trains management “ultimately responsible”.

This follows Sydney’s rail network meltdown last week, in which commuters suffered through cancelled services and hours of unexplained delays.

Labor calls for Constance to be sidelined

NSW opposition leader Luke Foley has called on Premier Gladys Berejiklian to inject herself into the negotiation process, saying Constance is over his head.

“[Mr Constance’s] constant denigration of train drivers has resulted in the announcement of Sydney’s first passenger rail strike this century,” he said.

“The premier must sideline this hapless minister and take charge of negotiations in order to resolve this dispute.”

Constance says strike will be seen as “ridiculous”

The Transport Minister has described strike action as “extraordinary” and “weird behaviour from a union boss”.

“Could someone please explain to me what has happened in the past 24 hours for this type of escalation?” Constance said.

“I think the community will look at this and think this is just ridiculous.

“What I would say to the unions is call off the strike, act in the interests of customers and put commuters first.”