Sydney commuters are bracing for crowd crushes and extended delays on the train network, as union members vote on a pay agreement brokered after marathon negotiations.
The dramatic 24-hour strike planned for next Monday could be abandoned if the majority of Rail, Tram and Bus Union members vote to accept the deal via text message on Tuesday night.
Members have been asked to respond by 12pm Wednesday, and the public is expected to learn of the result by lunchtime.
It will be too late to cancel the ban on overtime, which comes into effect on Thursday.
As a contingency, the government has cut 1300 services on Thursday to deal with the industrial action.
It’s likely the chaos will be worse than the rail network’s spectacular meltdown earlier this month.
A bulletin sent to union members on Tuesday said: “That text message will ask a simple question: ‘Is this offer on the table good enough that you want to temporarily stop your industrial action?’
“Respond ‘YES’ if you think we should temporarily stop the action. DO NOT RESPOND if you think the action this week should go ahead. No response = a ‘NO’ vote.
Commuters have been warned to expect major delays on Thursday, and have been advised to take leave or work from home if they’re able to do so.
People should plan ahead and travel outside the peak hours if they need to.
Hundreds of buses will be on standby to be deployed in the case of crowd crushes.
“We will close roads if we have to,” Sydney Trains CBD Coordinator General Marg Prendergast told a press conference on Tuesday.
RTBU NSW Secretary Alex Claassens said the blame lay with Transport Minister Andrew Constance.
“There’s no doubt that a ban on overtime work will cause disruptions on the network. The Transport Minister has allowed our services to get to the point where they’re reliant on people working their rostered days off in order to keep our trains running.”
But he said major progress had been made after a 10-hour meeting with Sydney and NSW Trains bosses.
“Negotiations have gone a long way to addressing our concerns and those protections we have been looking for,” he told reporters on Tuesday.
— Nine News Sydney (@9NewsSyd) January 23, 2018
“Until I hear from my members I am not going to comment whether I think it’s a good deal or not.”
The enterprise agreement would include an annual 2.75 per cent raise, a one off $1000 payment and extended travel passes.
A Sydney train guard, who is a union member but has not been actively involved in the pay dispute, told The New Daily morale had been bolstered by the union’s stance.
“Morale is pretty high actually,” said the guard, who did not want to be named.
“People seem supported and proud to be part of a union.”
Mr Claassens said rail workers had been trying to negotiate a fair package of wages and conditions for more than six months.
The transport minister has disrespected them, ignored them, attacked them and said he’d be happy when they no longer exist because we’ll have driverless trains. Now he actually finds he needs them.
“It’s disappointing that we’re in this position. The transport minister has unfortunately let it get to this. Finally, we’ve got an offer that we can put to members to look at, but it’s got to be noted that the minister has been dragged kicking and screaming to this point.”
Mr Constance did not rule out taking legal action if the strike was not averted by the members’ vote.
He said he was disappointed he’d been forced to roll out the contingency plans.
Details on train services available from Thursday available here.