Will There Be More NSW Train Strikes in 2023?

Hey, are you currently waiting at a Sydney train station? Is your train somewhere between five minutes and five years late? Are you now wondering if your train has been delayed by some sort of secret NSW strike?

Well, to answer that last question: No, your train hasn’t been delayed because of a strike. What’s more, it’s super unlikely that any Sydney train strikes will happen during 2023

Unfortunately, our train has instead been delayed for some other mysterious reason. Maybe a tree fell on the tracks, maybe the driver stopped to eat a Woolies mud cake, who knows. 

However, to understand why your train wasn’t delayed by a strike, we need to go back to 2015 and work forwards. 

2015: The Year the Train Wars Began

In 2015, the NSW Government ordered a bunch of vehicles called the New Intercity Fleet. Additionally, they wanted these vehicles to be “Driver Only” trains. This meant they’d be operated by one person and there wouldn’t be a guard onboard. Instead, the CCTV systems would be used to ensure the safety of the vehicle’s passengers.

However, an independent expert, the manufacturer, and the Australian Rail Tram and Bus Industry Union (RTBU) all believed this was not the best idea. This is because if someone fell from the vehicle, nobody would be there to save them.

Now, the RTBU was so concerned about this situation that they spent over six years fighting the NSW Government. They spent over six years fighting for guards to be on this fleet.  

Plus, to make matters more complicated, the RTBU of the time had some other demands. They wanted a pay rise, as its members weren’t being fairly compensated for their labor.

Nevertheless, for ages, the NSW Government wouldn’t budge on either of these issues. This led to the RTBU eventually escalating their tactics. They did so in 2022.

2022: The Year of the NSW Train Strikes

In 2022, the RTBU went hard-mode. In August, this union conducted 21 pieces of industrial action. In November, they conducted another 18.

This industrial action included: 

  • Leaving all of the Opal gates open.
  • Taking 70% of Sydney’s trains out of action.
  • Wearing of union gear at work.
  • Not removing any works of graffiti.

What’s more, on December 2, there was going to be a network-wide stoppage. And this strike would have likely impacted a most of NSW’s trains. 

However, before December 2 came around, the RTBU told their members that this strike had been cancelled. In fact, all of their bits and bobs of industrial action had been scrapped. 

This is because, after a seven-hour meeting on November 25, the NSW Government made a bunch of promises to the RTBU. These promises included:

  • Upgrading the New Intercity Fleet’s safety features to the RTBU’s specifications. 
  • Giving Fleet and Station Cleaners an additional $2.25 per hour. 
  • Giving all NSW TrainLink employees a one-off payment of $4500.
  • Giving every member a 2.53% pay increase from May 1, 2022, until May 1, 2023. 
  • Giving every member a 3.03% pay increase from May 1, 2023, until May 1, 2024. 

Now, the RTBU was very pleased with these promises. In exchange for these agreements, the RTBU cancelled its industrial actions.

At the time, the RTBU said, “We knew that if we stayed the course, negotiated strategically, and stood united, the government would eventually cave on providing safe trains and fair pay and conditions. That proved true late yesterday.”

They also said to their members, “Our unity has worked. Congratulations.”

“This of course means the actions planned for next week will not need to go ahead as we’ve won!”

2023: The Year of Chill Vibes and Peace

On 10 March of 2023, the RTBU got most of the things that they fought for. And likewise, the NSW Government kept most of their promises. On this date, it was announced that the New Intercity Fleet would be guarded. Additionally, it was declared that the RTBU workforce would be paid more.

So, because the RTBU scored what they were after, it would make no sense for them to strike this year. Doing so would achieve nothing but pure pandemonium. 

Which brings us back to you, maybe standing on a Sydney train platform. So, you might not know why your train’s been delayed. But at least you now know that it’s not because of a strike.

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