NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian Picture: Dan Himbrechts
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian Picture: Dan Himbrechts

Premier steps in after morning of rail chaos

PREMIER Gladys Berejiklian has become directly involved in train strike negotiations meeting with the union this morning.

Ms Berejiklian and Transport Minister Andrew Constance met with Rail, Tram and Bus Union NSW Secretary at the government's Martin Place office this morning.


While it's understood she previously had been guiding Mr Constance on how to handle negotiations this is the first time she has spoken directly with the union since the squabble started.

It is believed the Premier expressed her desire to end the strike but did not give the union any further offers.

Union attempts to stall legal proceedings to stop Monday's train strike were slapped down in the Fair Work Commission today.

As Sydney commuters struggled to work with dramatically reduced train services Rail Tram and Bus Union lawyer Anthony Howell asked for more time.

But Commissioner Jonathan Hamberger told him: "I hear what you say but I think we should kick on."

Union attempts to stall legal proveedings have failed. Picture: John Grainger
Union attempts to stall legal proveedings have failed. Picture: John Grainger

And when Mr Howell asked for an adjournment to read submissions from witnesses called by the NSW Government lawyer's he received a slap down from the bench.

"That's what the adjournment last night was for," said Mr Hamberger.

The legal action brought by Industrial Relations Minister Dominic Perrottet and Sydney Trains sought urgent orders to suspend the industrial action after rail workers voted to press ahead with a 24-hour strike on Monday.

The Commission heard evidence that less than six per cent of the rail workers contacted by SMS had responded to say they thought the Government's last pay offer was good enough to call off the strike. However no response to the text was taken as a green light to strike.

The Commission heard evidence from Michael Baldi from the Department of Justice that up to 45 percent of Justice staff will "not be able to attend work as a result of the strike." Prison officers are understood to not be affected because prisons are in remote locations where officers drive to work.

Robyn Bale from the Department of Education said that "we do have students who could make the decision not to go to school if the train was delayed."

And Susan Pettifer from the City of Sydney said a contingency plan had already been activated and rubbish collection and ranger services were likely to be affected.

Lawyers for the union and government will argue their case before Commissioner Hamberger makes his ruling sometime after midday.

This comes as commuters across Sydney are dealing with the impact of reduced train services as the NSW government makes a last-ditch effort to stop a 24-hour strike on Monday.

Crowds at Parramatta station this morning. Picture: John Grainger
Crowds at Parramatta station this morning. Picture: John Grainger

With trains operating on a Saturday schedule, services today have been cut by nearly half, meaning every 15 minutes rather than every eight.

Trains heading into the city were jam-packed by 7.30am, according to social media.

"Elbow to elbow in sweating business shirts and gym bags this humid January morning commute. Avoid train transport at all cost, mines no longer got any capacity for anymore customers," wrote Chloe Grabham on Twitter.

"T1 Line from Penrith-City. Cannot move," Nine Network tweeted.

Passengers faced a tough commute to work this morning. Picture: John Grainger
Passengers faced a tough commute to work this morning. Picture: John Grainger

Transport Coordinator General Marg Prendergast said despite calling on hundreds of additional buses authorities were still unable to replace the full capacity of cancelled services.

"Customers should consider whether they need to travel at all but if they do, should allow plenty of additional travel time, expect delays and travel outside the morning and afternoon peak periods," she said.

The state government late on Wednesday launched legal proceedings in the Fair Work Commission to stop the 24-hour strike scheduled for Monday and an indefinite ban on overtime work.

The application was adjourned until Thursday morning, just as the first disruptions of the ban begin to hit the system.

No trains will run across NSW on Monday and all stations will be closed if the 24-hour strike goes ahead.


The possibility follows a poll by the Rail, Tram and Bus Union - labelled "illegitimate" by Transport Minister Andrew Constance - which asked members via text message whether they wanted to accept the latest pay package from management.

More than 6100 text messages were sent to union members asking whether a 2.75 per cent pay increase as part of a package that also includes free bus travel and a one-off $1000 payment was good enough.

Workers were required to reply 'yes' to call off the strike, with a non-reply counted as a 'no' vote Only 5.93 per cent - about 360 workers - responded in favour of suspending industrial action.

Just "a couple of people" said 'no', according to RTBU NSW secretary Alex Claassens, prompting questions over the poll's validity.

Mr Constance slammed the union's SMS voting method and made an 11th-hour bid at the Fair Work Commission to prevent the strike.

The applications are due to be heard jointly at the commission at 8am on Thursday.



Commuters who made it to work this morning are starting to think about what will happen on Monday.

City worker Zahad Sumon, 32, usually slides straight into a seat at Punchbowl Station for his Bankstown Line journey but was stood shoved against fellow commuters on a hot carriage this morning.

"I usually get a seat. I hope they sort it out as early as possible," Mr Sumon told the Daily Telegraph's Nick Hansen. "On Monday it's a full strike so what are we going to do? Get an Uber - who's going to pay? I asked if I could work from home. But not everyone can do that."

Anecdotal reports from social media suggest most Sydneysiders stuck together to get through the transport chaos this morning.

The trains were so packed this morning that some drivers allowed up to three passengers to travel in the drivers' compartment with them.

Scores of commuters were packed in like sardines on services leaving Wynyard Station this morning.

Bill Manning, 23, was travelling from East Hills to St Leonards. "It's just a bit slower and a bit more crowded," he said at Wynyard Station. "It'll be worse for the people who got on the train after me."

Some commuters face getting to work late today despite heading out early

Randwick resident Caoimhe Regan, 27, missed her train this morning due to the timetable disruptions. This was despite leaving early for her work in the western Sydney suburb of Merrylands.

Police helped control crowds at Parramatta station. Picture: John Grainger
Police helped control crowds at Parramatta station. Picture: John Grainger

"I think I've actually missed my train because it left early," she said this morning at Central Station. "I left a bit early today because my housemate told me the train times are going to like the weekend timetable. The bus from Randwick was a bit busier than what it usually is for that time in the morning."

On the Bankstown line a packed train is continuing to run this morning with a smashed window

Trains are normally evacuated and taken out of service following this type of damage but such has been the demand on services today that station staff just taped the window up to secure it and the train continued on its way.

Traffic was already beginning to bank up in the M5 tunnel heading into Sydney this morning as more cars than usual hit the roads amid today's train timetable disruption

At 4.30am today, at least double the amount of vehicles have hit the main motorway early - some possibly to start their long weekend ahead of the Australia Day public holiday tomorrow.