NSW and Sydney Train Strike: An Explainer

Why is there a Sydney Train strike? How will the strike affect you?

NSW and Sydney Train Strike

Workers at Sydney Trains and NSW Trains have been forced to take industrial action which is affecting train services. The workers are asking the NSW Government for improvements to health and safety, job security, fair pay rises and a guarantee that no train services will be privatised.

However, the big sticking point is the safety of new intercity trains. Train drivers and guards say the trains have a number of critical safety problems, including:

  1. Guard doors which automatically lock on departure and arrival from stations, preventing guards from assisting passengers;
  2. Station-view CCTV cameras on trains which have a blind spot below 1.1 metres. Vision of children, prams, and guide dogs would be impaired by this CCTV camera blind spot.
  3. CCTV camera screens in the drivers cab are in the driver’s line of sight during train operation.

The NSW Government has refused to commit in writing to fixing these safety issues. This has left workers with an impossible choice – drive unsafe trains or strike.

How will you be affected by the train strike?

The strikes have been limited to periodic work bans, to ensure limited train services can still operate for essential travel. People who can work from home are encouraged to during periodic bans to free up services for essential travel. Periodic bans can cover:

– overtime requests

– performing non-essential electrical work

– working with contractors

– performing non-essential maintenance jobs

As a result, Management at Sydney Trains and NSW Trains have begun reducing services.

Periodically, workers will also refuse to operate overseas-made trains which account for about 70% of all train services.

More information is made available daily about which particular train services will continue to operate and if replacement buses will operate.

This is not the first disruption to regular operations on the train network. Over the past 12 months workers have taken actions which you may have noticed and not realised where part of a dispute with management.

This includes a one-day ban on cleaning graffiti on 10 September, a one-day overtime ban on 22 September and strike on 20 October last year.

So why is this happening?

Why is the NSW and Sydney train strike happening?

Management and workers at Sydney Trains have been in workplace negotiations for 18 months.

The issue at stake is a 3-year agreement which sets out conditions, safety and pay for train workers. Originally, management at Sydney Trains proposed:

– Ending consultation with workers on safety changes and work practices;
– Reducing redundancy conditions to make it easier to eliminate jobs; and
– Less full-time secure jobs in favour of more short-term contract work.

This is why rail workers began industrial action last year with one-day bans, such as overtime bans. Industrial action by workers was very successful with most of these unfair proposals taken off the table.

However, management has refused to budge on their proposal to reduce safety and cut real pay.

In early 2022, the Government even offered rail workers an $18,000 bonus paid in $3000 instalments every 6 months. The bonus would only be paid if rail workers operated the unsafe trains. Rail workers refused to trade off safety for pay bonuses.

So the workers are left with this choice: strike or accept less safe workplaces and wages that don’t keep up with the cost of living. Less safe workplaces also means less safe trains for commuters.

What can be done to stop the Sydney Train strike continuing?

The management of Sydney Trains ultimately answers to the NSW Government and the Transport Minister. This means they are sensitive to public pressure.

If the NSW Government or Train Management thinks the public is against their proposal to reduce job security and safety, they will go back to negotiations with the workers and offer a better agreement to stop the strikes.

You can send a message that you support the workers, and think the management proposal is unreasonable, using the quick form below.