NSW govt negotiating through media over strike: RBTU

By: Jason Whittaker

Sydney is in chaos with up to 600,000 commuters stranded after Rail Tram and Bus Union (RBTU) bus drivers went

Sydney is in chaos with up to 600,000 commuters stranded after Rail Tram and Bus Union (RBTU) bus drivers went ahead with a planned strike.

The 24-hour stoppage started at 4 am this morning, with drivers walking off the job over failed pay negotiations with the State Transit Authority (STA).

Yesterday the RBTU claimed STA would not consider a pay rise above 2.5 percent without direct cuts to workers’ conditions and the quality of services. The union is bargaining for a 5 percent pay rise for drivers.

Premier Kristina Keneally says the government will honour an offer of wage increases of 3 percent backdated from June 12 this year, with a further 3 percent from June 12 next year.

Today RTBU spokesman Raul Baonza accused the government of negotiating through the media, saying the government has not contacted the union with a formal offer, the Sydney Morning Herald reports.

"All we've heard is through media reports," he is quoted as saying.

"We've had a three-and-three offer before but there was an unacceptable clause to that, which was opening up the buses to casual drivers.

"The government is well aware that we rejected that so we don’t know whether they are flogging the same offer or not."

Baonza says the strike should come as no surprise to STA or the NSW Government.

He apologised to commuters for the timing of the strike but says the union has "nowhere else to go".

"Yesterday we announced the strike at 10 o’clock, and the Premier and the Minister did not comment the entire day. They came out at 8.30pm at night with an offer we know nothing about, which they have not put to us, which contains no details," the Sydney Morning Herald reports Baonza as saying.

The Industrial Relations Commission (IRC) has called a compulsory conference at 12 noon to try to resolve the dispute.

Taxi, train and ferry services are reportedly in overdrive this morning following the stop work.

The northern beaches suburbs of Sydney are the hardest hit, with no train service to alleviate the stoppage.

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