Illawarra rail passengers were left stranded Tuesday morning but it wasn't because of industrial action, according to the rail union.
Commuters were forewarned strike action over an expired enterprise agreement would see trains halt between 9am and 1pm, however there was not a train in sight at Wollongong station from 7am until 2.30pm and no bus replacements anywhere in the Illawarra.
NSW Trains changed the timetable to pull trains from the network so they could be in the "depot" but failed to alert commuters of the extended absence of transportation, just that there would be "disruptions".
Wollongong man Mushfiq Tanzim had been working in Sydney and thought he would be able to get a train back home in the morning in between shifts, only to be told trains would resume later that afternoon.
"I have work tonight," he said. "I tried to book a hotel but either the hotels are shut or booked for the people who are in hotel quarantine. Yeah so you can say current status is homeless for a day."
Rail, Tram and Bus Union NSW Secretary, Alex Claassens said rail employees didn't take industrial action lightly and had worked with various other unions to find a date and time that would be least disruptive for essential workers - hence the four-hour time slot from 9am.
Mr Classens said he was disappointed by the decision to extend that time for the Illawarra and not provide replacement buses.
"The sad part about all of this is [senior management] didn't talk to us at all at any point in this process, like, in the past if we were going to take industrial action the senior management would have reached out to the union and asked 'what do you plan on doing and how can we ... make sure we still look after our customers'," he said.
"I've been in the railway since 1978 and I've seen lots of things happen but I've never been in this position ... where they refuse to talk to us or refuse to recognise we exist."
Transport for NSW has said appropriate managers have been in discussion with the RTBU for some time.
The union held a digital picket-line via Zoom Tuesday morning with more than 700 viewers joining in at one point, after failing to meet with senior managers from Sydney and NSW Trains to negotiate a raft of conditions including concern over cuts to cleaning jobs, which they said could pose a huge risk in the current environment with COVID-19.
When contacted by the Mercury as to why commuters were not notified of the extended disruptions, a Transport for NSW spokesperson said the trains needed to be in their depots.
"Safety is always our top priority, which is why we follow all our procedures when the rail fleet starts and stops on the network," she said.
"Trains had to be at the depots by 9am and services were affected from earlier in the morning. As part of safety procedures, trains have to be checked and prepared before they leave depots and start running on the network again. This means trains weren't able to restart exactly at 1pm."
The spokeswoman would not confirm whether senior managers from Sydney and NSW Trains were refusing to engage with the RTBU but said the organisations had held meetings with "appropriate managers".
"The two rail operators remain committed to the bargaining process and have held numerous meetings with union and employee representatives over the past three months, which have not stalled and are continuing," she said.
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