The chaos for commuters will begin tomorrow with 1300 services being cut, and culminate with a 24-hour shut down on Monday.
The 24-hour train strike set to bring Sydney to a standstill on Monday will go ahead.
Fewer than 6% of NSW Rail, Tram and Bus Union (RTBU) members voted to suspend the industrial action this afternoon, as they continue to pressure the government to increase wages and improve working conditions.
The latest offer included a 2.75% pay rise, a $1000 bonus for each employee, and an extension to free travel passes.
But it did little to sway rail staff, with just 360 members out of 6,100 responding via text in favour of accepting the offer.
STRIKE PROCEEDING: Rail Union has informed members that from 6,100 texts, only 360 odd ‘yes’ replies were received. Meaning industrial action will go ahead. Back to the negotiating table. Govt has lodged paperwork in Fair Work to stop strike@TenNewsSydney #TenNews #SydneyTrains
— Lachlan Kennedy (@lachlan_kennedy) January 24, 2018
RTBU NSW Secretary Alex Claassens apologised for the immense disruption the strike will cause, particularly with it being the first day of school for many, but confirmed the latest proposal was “nowhere near good enough”.
“Unfortunately my members have overwhelmingly decided that the offer on the table is nowhere near good enough and our industrial action will continue,” he told reporters.
“All I can say is that I’m very, very sorry we’re in this position. I tried to do everything I can to avert it. I will continue to do that.”
Claassens, on behalf of the union, has been pushing for a wage increase closer to 6%, but he stressed the sticking point is guaranteed protections.
“I know there’s some doubting Thomases over here, but I have honestly always said it’s about our conditions first and foremost. We have got a Minister that’s been out there privatising everything left, right and centre. We want to have some protections for our members.”
On top of putting the trains to bed for 24-hours on Monday, workers have agreed to an “indefinite overtime ban” beginning tomorrow.
That means a weekend-like timetable will be in operation with 1300 services cut. According to News.com.au, stations that have trains passing through every three or so minutes during peak hours, will now have 15 minute gaps between services.
People are being advised to work from home on Monday if it is feasible or take annual leave. Even Transport for NSW staff have been advised to work “flexibly” tomorrow and Monday.
In emails obtained by Nine News, staff were warned: “It’s important that we avoid adding to or increasing the disruption during this time.”
Legal firm taking action to prevent strike
The Australian Financial Review reports that Harmers Workplace Lawyers has engaged in legal action in a desperate last ditch attempt to keep the trains running.
It lodged the action with the Fair Work Commission, stating its train dependent staff would be “directly impacted”.
“More than 50% of our staff rely on trains to get to work. There will be a considerable loss of revenue, cash flow and productivity to the firm. Very many NSW businesses will be similarly affected,” Harmers said in its statement.
“The community – employers and employees alike – should not be exposed to the enormous disruption and economic loss simply because two warring parties cannot agree.”
News of the action was laughed off by Claassens. “The courts will no doubt see this for what it is – a baseless claim riddled with inconsistencies,” he said.
“It’s disappointing that a large, profitable legal firm would deem it appropriate to attempt to stop the state’s hard-working railway employees from simply doing what it takes to get the fair wages and conditions they deserve.”