Thousands of NSW commuters will have to make other travel plans this week as bus and train drivers take industrial action over pay and conditions.
The strikes began on Monday with inner-west Sydney bus drivers walking off the job as part of an ongoing dispute over pay equality.
On Tuesday bus drivers in the city’s south-west will also strike, before the two groups stage a co-ordinated walkout for two hours during the Friday afternoon peak.
Unions NSW Secretary Mark Morey said 300 workers at the Burwood depot were striking on Monday, along with 900 others around the region, protesting a two-tier wage system and cuts to services due to privatisation.
Transport Workers Union NSW secretary Richard Olsen said the state government needed to demand its contractor Transit Systems NSW negotiate with the union since “they introduced privatisation into this bus industry”.
“We have a two-stage wage system here that does not work,” Mr Olsen said on Monday.
Rail, Tram and Bus Union NSW secretary Alex Claassens said the government accepted a bid from Transit Systems that left workers at the same depots doing the same jobs but earning different amounts.
“That was done … for profit,” Mr Claassens said.
Government bus drivers were “basically quarantined through company structure” while new drivers were on different arrangements. That led to more expensive and experienced drivers missing out on penalty shifts and being “rostered out” of the job, he said.
RTBU members will take action on Tuesday, refusing to drive the foreign-made trains that run three-quarters of the services on the network
The RTBU has been negotiating an enterprise bargaining agreement after the old one expired in May.
Sydney Trains CEO Matt Longland said the strikes were disappointing after more than 40 meetings between Sydney Trains, NSW TrainLink and the union.
The union wants an end to privatisation, safety standards maintained and a commitment to retaining current hygiene standards while not relying on contractors to provide it.
Mr Longland said it had been offered a 2.5 per cent pay increase, inclusive of superannuation.
Mr Claassens said the union was “acutely aware” of the impact that drivers refusing to drive foreign-built trains would have on commuters but the problem was the proportion of transport assets those trains made up.
“That’s important given all the issues we’re seeing with overseas-built transport assets at the moment,” he said.
All 12 of the foreign-built, seven-year-old trams for the inner-west line of the Sydney light rail have been removed from service to fix extensive cracking. Bus services that have replaced them will not be affected by Monday’s strike.
Train drivers are concerned about new trains from Korea that are yet to go into service, and say replacing guards on train platforms by CCTV monitored by the driver poses safety risks to workers and commuters.
Transport for NSW said Tuesday’s strikes meant services would run to a reduced frequency on most lines, make additional station stops and take longer to reach their destination. Commuters are advised to plan ahead.