UPDATED: More than 1,000 bus drivers across Sydney’s Inner West and South West have voted overwhelmingly 'for the right' to take industrial action over Transit Systems’ refusal to accept same-job, same-pay provisions, the Transport Workers Union (NSW branch) has announced.
Bus drivers in NSW contract areas Region 3 and Region 6 of Sydney’s bus network – which Kelsian Group Limited (formerly Sealink Travel Group) operates via subsidiary Transit Systems – voted convincingly in favour of taking action, with 97 per cent and 92 per cent voting in favour, respectively.
In an industry first, the Protected Action Ballot for Region 6 covers members of both the TWU and RTBU, meaning more than 800 drivers in the region now have the right to take industrial action, TWUNSW explains.
The votes allow drivers to take a range of industrial actions, including displaying union materials on buses, turning off Opal card readers and strike action, it adds.
TWU NSW state secretary Richard Olsen says the company’s refusal to come to the negotiating table in good faith had left drivers with no option but to vote for the right to take industrial action.
“Bus drivers aren’t asking for a lot here; all they want is a guarantee that whether you’re driving a bus in Liverpool or in Leichhardt, you will be paid the same regardless – but Transit Systems are digging in their heels and forcing drivers to take action” Olsen said.
“If the company continues to dig its heels in, the state government – as the principal contractor – will need to step in. The new Transport minister Rob Stokes urgently needs to drag Transit Systems into his office and talk some sense into them.”
In addition to the same-job same-pay provisions, drivers are also seeking for superannuation to be paid on all earnings, and for a pathway to 15 per cent super, the union clarifies. Currently, drivers are not paid any super on overtime or other additional earnings, which often make up a significant portion of drivers’ total income, it says.
“If 15 per cent super is good enough for the prime minister then it’s good enough for our bus drivers, too,” Olsen explained.
The PAB votes come after more than 90 per cent of Transit Systems’ workers in Region 6 voted to reject an agreement put forward by the company without any consultation or negotiations having taken place, the union confirms.
Transit Systems operates two of Sydney’s bus regions: Region 3 – covering Parramatta, Liverpool, Merrylands, Prairiewood and Fairfield; and Region 6 – covering Sydney’s Inner West and South.
The operator’s parent company, Sealink Travel Group – recently renamed Kelsian – received $20.5 million in Jobkeeper payments over the 2019-20 and 2020-21 financial years, the Unions states, despite the NSW government continuing to pay bus operators at pre-pandemic levels throughout the entire period, it adds.
The TWU has given an undertaking that industrial action will not disrupt HSC students during their exam period, it confirms.
UPDATE: TS RESPONSE
When ABC magazine contacted Transit Systems for comment, a spokesperson replied: “We have undertaken nine separate negotiation meetings, of which, the TWU attended only one and the RTBU attended just four.”
“We have listened and communicated extensively with our employees including regular twice weekly Q&A updates, informative videos, and an internal briefing on the proposed Enterprise Agreement for all employees, which included 60 minutes of paid time to those who viewed the session.
“We will continue to work with our employees and look forward to reaching a positive outcome,” he said.
Photography: courtesy TWUNSW