Dominic Perrottet has accused the train union of conspiring with Labor to shut down the rail network and undermine the Coalition ahead of the federal election.
The premier accused both parties of being in bed together but failed to provide any evidence to back up his extraordinary claims on Monday.
‘Make no mistake this is a coordinated attack by the Labor party and the union movement,’ he told reporters.
‘This is no accident. This is a concerted campaign by the unions and the Labor party to cause mass disruption across our city.’
Dominic Perrottet has accused the Rail, Tram and Bus union of working with Labor to shut down the rail network and undermine the Liberals ahead of the election
Millions of Sydney commuters woke up in the morning to find they had no way to get to work after all trains were suddenly cancelled.
Peak-hour roads were choked with traffic as Sydneysiders jumped into their cars with little other alternative to get to work, with gridlock as long as 22km on the main arteries to the city: the M2 motorway, Victoria Road, the M5, and Hume Highway.
The network shutdown came on the day Australia’s international borders finally opened, forcing arrivals into expensive taxi fares, and also when NSW officially lifted work-from-home advice.
Mr Perrottet held the press conference at Sydney International Airport and intended to focus on the momentous reopening of the border.
Millions of Sydney commuters woke up in the morning to find they had no way to get to work after all trains were suddenly cancelled
Peak-hour roads were choked with traffic as Sydneysiders jumped into their cars with little other alternative to get to work, with gridlock as long as 22km on the main arteries to the city: the M2 motorway, Victoria Road, the M5, and Hume Highway
But the premier was swamped with questions about the train service cancellation before he claimed it was ‘no accident’ it happened on one of the busiest days since the pandemic began in 2020.
‘It should be condemned, and I’m incredibly disappointed and share the anger of every single person across our city this morning,’ he said.
‘The unions were intent on causing chaos. This is the unions playing games with the Labor Party for political purposes at the expense of our people.’
‘This is the Labor Party in bed with the union movement to cause mass disruption.’
But in reality, the battle between the NSW Government and Sydney Train management, and the Rail, Tram and Bus Union has been going on for years.
The cancellation is the latest chapter in a long-running dispute between the parties over safety guarantees, hygiene, wages, and privatisation concerns.
The network shutdown came on the day Australia’s international borders finally opened, forcing arrivals into expensive taxi fares, and also when NSW officially lifted work-from-home advic
The cancellation is the latest chapter in a long-running dispute between the NSW Government and the Rail Tram and Bus Union over safety guarantees, hygiene, wages, and privatisation concerns
The two sides are blaming each other for the shutdown with NSW Transport Minister David Elliott accusing the union of ‘hijacking the city’ and the union arguing the government of ‘locking workers’ out after they agreed to work.
NSW Opposition Leader Chris Minns accused Mr Perrottet of promoting a ‘conspiracy theory’ by claiming Labor was colluding with the union.
Labor MP Tony Burke took to Twitter to back the union and point the blame finger at the Liberals.
‘The claim that the trains in Sydney aren’t running because of a strike is wrong,’ he wrote.
‘The planned union action was not going to stop the trains. The Liberals have decided to stop the trains. Train drivers have turned up to work.
‘There’s chaos in Sydney and the govt chose chaos.’
His tweet divided social media users with some slamming the train drivers for the widespread rail cancellation and others backing them.
‘Trains don’t need drivers in 2022,’ one person wrote. ‘The safety is already assured by onboard systems. All they do is press Start and push the button to show they’re still awake. Not worth $200k+ with penalty rates.’
A different social media user disagreed and pointed the finger at the Liberals.
The premier was swamped with questions by reporters about the train service cancellation before he claimed it was ‘no accident’ it had happened on one of the busiest days since the pandemic began in 2020
Labor MP Tony Burke took to Twitter to back the union and point the blame finger at the Liberals
‘Filthy Propaganda from the LNP make people distrust and hate unions in the hope that fewer people will join unions making workers vulnerable to greedy employers leading to poor wages and working conditions,’ they wrote.
Mr Perrottet said he would continue to negotiate with RTBU in ‘good faith’.
‘They could not turn around and change the timetable system in a way that would be safe for commuters, that’s the advice from the [Sydney Trains] CEO,’ he said.
‘You don’t just turn a train system on in a few hours. The timetabling had been set.
‘Today is not reasonable. This is a concerted campaign, I will do whatever I can to ensure this doesn’t happen again.’
NSW Transport Minister David Elliott said he would not be ‘conceding on unreasonable things’ as talks continued between the two sides.
‘What was agreed to on Saturday was in question, which was why last night at 8 o’clock we should have bedded down these questions… [but] they didn’t even bother showing up,’ he said, speaking about the RTBU.
‘The public are pretty upset with the union today. It has been a long time since the city was brought to a standstill with zero notice.’
‘I don’t think the electorate as a whole is going to cop this sort of industrial bastardry.’
NSW Transport Minister David Elliott said he would not be ‘conceding on unreasonable things’ as talks continued between the two sides
Chain of events leading to Sydney train shutdown
Past six months: Rail Tram and Bus Union, Sydney Trains, and the NSW Government has 30 meetings trying to resolve long-running dispute over new enterprise agreement.
Union demands better pay and conditions and improvements to hygiene, safety, and no moves to privatise the network.
Saturday: Two sides meet for conciliation with Sydney Trains and government sending 10 lawyers at a $500,000 cost to taxpayers.
Government wants all industrial action halted and is pushing for the Fair Work Commission to arbitrate the contract dispute. Union is dead against that as it claims the Commission is stacked with anti-union members.
Union agrees to cancel a ban on overtime and other plans in exchange for being able to go ahead with scaled-down industrial action on Monday for two weeks, and the government withdrawing arbitration push.
Action limited to a ban on ‘altered working’ and other flexible rostering that Sydney Trains uses to respond to changes on the network.
Union secretary described altered working as: ‘You know you’re going to work on a particular time, but you don’t quite know the duties you’re going to be doing.’
Sunday: Government realises it agreed to a deal that still has wide ranging, though comparatively minor, industrial action.
8pm Sunday: Government sends Crown solicitors to the Fair Work Commission to demand the industrial action be called off and ‘clarify’ the deal. Union leaders are not present but RTBU’s lawyers are.
Fair Work Commission sides with the union and the industrial action is scheduled to go ahead.
Monday, 1.38am: Transport for NSW secretary Rob Sharp sends an email suddenly cancelling all services in what rail workers called a ‘dummy spit’.
He and the government claim the industrial action compromised rail safety and they had no choice but to shut it down.
Union secretary Alex Claassens later rejects this, arguing the limited industrial action would cause delays but was easy to work around if Sydney Trains was properly prepared.
5am: Sydney Trains tell passengers via social media that all trains and cancelled and they will need to find alternative transport.
Train staff show up to work, only to find themselves locked out. Union bosses are also taken by surprise, thinking the deal was still in place.
8am: Mr Claassens hold an emotional press conference where he lashes the government and explains the death of his friend on the job is an example of why workers are demanding better safety standards.
He earlier went on radio to accuse the government of ‘spitting the dummy’ and shutting down the network to embarrass the union.