Hundreds of furious drivers over a ‘ridiculous’ toilet break loophole have walked off the job, sparking chaos for commuters in Sydney.
Hundreds of NSW bus drivers have rallied to demand fair pay and better working conditions.
Commuters in NSW faced altered bus times on Monday during the 24-hour strike by transport workers’ union and rail, tram and bus union drivers, who walked off the job a minute after midnight.
RTBU State Division Secretary David Babineau said around 300 drivers showed up for a rally near parliament and many more joined the strike in other areas.
“It’s about bringing the government’s attention to things that it has the ability to change, but is really trying to avoid accountability for,” he said.
“They own all the buses and the assets and control the fares, basically setting the schedules.
“They are the economic employer but say they have no responsibility to the workers. It’s not true – they absolutely do.
Drivers’ demands include reasonable breaks and hours, shifts of no more than 12 hours and a minimum of 10 hours between shifts, better training and equal pay for drivers doing the same job.
“We’re in a situation right now where a lot of drivers don’t have toilet breaks listed…it’s ridiculous, the fact that in 2022 we’re talking about it being a problem,” Babineau said.
While Sydney will face the brunt of the disruption, areas outside the city that will be affected include the Hunter region, Lake Macquarie, the Blue Mountains, the Central Coast and Queanbeyan.
Australian Council of Trade Unions secretary Sally McManus said workers are frustrated because wages are not keeping up with the cost of living.
“The people you’ve seen taking industrial action are all frontline workers, whether they’re nurses, teachers, transport workers and it’s happening today,” she told the Today Show. .
“People have to really, really cut back now because of inflation and wages not going up and people only go on strike as a last resort and sadly that is what is happening now.
Ms McManus said the families found it “difficult”, with the problem worsening over eight years.
“The New South Wales government should respond by making sure its essential workers don’t back down,” she said.
Some early morning commuters woke up in shock on Monday, some unaware that their services were going to be interrupted.
Transport for NSW urges commuters to plan ahead, follow announcements and use travel alternatives where possible.
The ministry said the affected lines would operate on a reduced schedule.
Parents planning to go to the Easter show can breathe a sigh of relief as the event buses are always ready to run.
The ministry said drivers will be allowed to use the T2 and T3 public transport lanes without risking a fine during the strike.
Unions have denounced government moves to privatize bus services and said they would demand Transport Minister David Elliott “take (his) share of the responsibility in delivering a package industry standards that ensure a safer and fairer bus industry”.
“David Elliott continues to avoid his responsibility for the health and safety of bus drivers and their passengers,” TWU Secretary of State Richard Olsen said earlier.
“Drivers drive NSW Government owned buses, bus routes and bus stops are set by the NSW Government, but the Government, through the Minister, does not claim responsibility for the safety and conditions of workers who operate the buses.
Mr Elliott said earlier in the week that the unions’ demands were not a matter for the government.
“The ongoing negotiations over wages and conditions are a matter between bus drivers and private operators,” he said last Wednesday.
“The NSW Government cannot intervene in the negotiation of company agreements between private operators and their workers.”
Mr Elliott also said he was disappointed the strike was happening during school holidays and accused the unions of trying to ‘exploit the state’s transport system for the political gain of the Labor Party’.
Sydney routes that will offer reduced services:
- Liverpool, Fairfield, Parramatta, (public transport systems)
- Hills District (CDC)
- Inner West, Some Sydney CBD, Olympic Park, Strathfield, Rockdale (Transit Systems)
- Cronulla, Engadine, Sutherland, Menai (Transdev)
- Hornsby, Gordon, Berowra (Transdev)
- Lidcombe, Granville, Bankstown, Liverpool (Transdev)
- Outdoor subway
Roads in the rest of the state that will run reduced services:
- Newcastle (CDC Hunter)
- Hunter Valley (CDC hunter)
- Tuggerah and Wyong (coastal liner)
- Blue Mountains (Blue Mountains Transit)
Originally published as NSW commuters face chaos as bus drivers go on strike for 24 hours