The text message that sent Sydney's trains into chaos
TODAY'S transport chaos is being laid squarely at the feet of the union with top levels of the government furious a haphazard straw poll was used to make a decision that will affect more than one million people.
Rail services have been slashed by 45 per cent from today, with a full strike - the first in almost two decades - planned for Monday after the Rail Tram and Bus Union rejected the government's offer of a 2.75 per cent pay rise a year for members, plus $1000 bonus payment and extended free travel. Government estimates put the total value of the package at 3.45 per cent per annum.
And the state government was last night seething that the poll - conducted by text message - was a farce, with each failure to reply counted as a vote to pursue strike action.
Transport Minister Andrew Constance labelled the poll "illegitimate". Urgent legal action to stymie the industrial action will resume at 8am today in the Fair Work Commission.
Today, the number of rail services in Sydney will be equal to those in 1953, with just 1600 journeys
The regular Thursday timetable offers 2900 services.
The most senior levels of government were furious the union's text message poll did not even reach all members.
RTBU NSW chief Alex Claassens himself admitted repeatedly yesterday that the union had used an "imperfect process". He said the union sent 6000 text messages asking if the pay offer was good enough to call off strike action.
Mr Claassens said 360 members texted back saying "yes" but he refused to reveal how many members responded with a "no".
"I did everything I could to get an answer. If that ain't good enough bad luck," he said, claiming the union had also talked to members on the phone.
The Daily Telegraph understands the government believed Mr Claassens was satisfied the pay offer he took to his members was credible and the industrial action would be called off. It was expected union leaders and Transport for NSW bosses would take the complex offer on a "roadshow" to members, who would then decide in a process over several weeks. But Mr Claassens said yesterday that he "never said it was a good offer". "I said when I get a reasonable offer put to me, I'll put it to the members," he said.
My members have overwhelmingly decided the offer on the table is nowhere near good enough." Mr Claassens said the issue was not about pay but conditions. He said workers wanted their rostered days off protected to ensure they weren't working 13 or 14 days straight.
A furious Mr Constance slammed the vote. "I don't think group texting people like this is a legitimate way to understand the views of the work force in relation to what is a comprehensive package," he said. "It's vital people are consulted in tea rooms, depots (about) what this package means to them. Allow this conversation to happen then make the decision on what you want to do."
Premier Gladys Berejiklian has a long working relationship with Mr Claassens and has been trying to secure a deal behind-the-scenes.
Mr Constance has been criticised for not attending the firey union meetings where they thrashed out the deal, but he is due to meet with Mr Claassens today.
Australian Timetable Association Collectors NSW Secretary Geoff Lambert told The Daily Telegraph he estimated that in 1953 there would have been about 1600 train services per day in Sydney - the same figure that will be provided today as a result of the industrial action.
With Sydney's current network reliant on overtime, the strike is anticipated to spin the city into chaos.
The Big Four banks are encouraging employees to work from home. Hospitals are also bracing themselves for the fallout with an email sent out by NSW Health yesterday afternoon encouraging employees to "carpool" and plan time ahead. "If your travel is delayed despite your best efforts, please advise your manager so arrangements can be made to ensure patient care is not affected," the email said.
It's understood police have been liaising with Sydney Trains and will be at stations including Wynyard, Central and Town Hall to monitor the chaos. In some cases services have been slashed by more than half during peak hours.
FULL LIST OF RAIL CHOKE POINTS:
Services slashed from 39
Trains running every 12 minutes instead of every 5
Services slashed from 38 to 21
Trains running every 15 minutes instead of every 7
Services slashed from 18 to 6
Services will arrive about every 25 minutes instead of every 5
Services slashed from 9 to just 6
Services will run every 30 minutes instead of every 15
Services slashed from 25 to 12
They will run every 20 minutes instead of every 4
Services slashed from 19 to 12
They will run every 25 minutes instead of every 4
Services slashed from 35 to 17
Trains will run every 9 minutes instead of every 5
Services slashed from 28
Trains will run every 8 minutes instead of 6
Services slashed from 18 to 9
Average wait time increases from 9 minutes to 18
Services cut from 17 to 13
Average wait time increases from 4 minutes to 10
Services slashed from 20 to 12
Average wait time increases from 8.5 minutes to 14
Services slashed from 20 to 12
Trains will come every 14 minutes rather than 9