New South Wales Premier Dominic Perrottet has said he would seek to tear up a company agreement if a railway union goes ahead with plans to make Sydney trains free.
The Rail, Tram and Bus Union has sought to disable Opal card readers on the NSW rail network, in a bid to starve the government of revenue.
The union is locked in a bitter row with the NSW government over a new company deal and pressure to change a train fleet.
“If this action is taken, or another strike that … embarrasses people across the state, we will seek to terminate this agreement in the Fair Work Commission,” Mr. Perrottet told a radio station on Tuesday.
“Any industrial activity taken on the subway system that costs taxpayers billions, so we will seek to end that as well.”
Mr Perrottet had previously threatened to shred the deal in August.
RTBU secretary Alex Claassens said on Monday the union had submitted a new claim to the Fair Work Commission after a previous plan to open counters was thwarted by the government.
“So within 48 hours (…) the Commission will be asked to determine whether our actions can take place or not,” Mr Classens said.
“As soon as we can, we’ll be turning off those Opal Card machines again, and we’ll be giving NSW commuters a free ride, until, of course, the government comes to their senses and agrees to sit down with us and negotiate, fix our dangerous trains and agree decent wages and conditions for our members.
Also on Tuesday, another union entered the fray, siding with the RTBU and chastising Mr Perrottet for seeking advice from former Prime Minister John Howard.
“Instead of sitting down with the unions to secure a fair deal for workers, the government has pledged to intrigue and use tactics that undermine workers’ right to take protected industrial action,” the secretary said. Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union NSW and ACT, Cory Wright.
“By dragging out the negotiation process for more than a year, this government has shown that it does not value railway workers or commuters. He seems to care only about the profit he can make from a public service.
Mr Perrottet said of meeting Mr Howard: “I think it’s always important in these roles to listen and get advice from people who have gone through similar issues in the past. “
The RTBU announced its intention to shut down the machines last week.
But the government responded with a petition to the Fair Work Commission in which it called for the union plan to be found “unprotected”.
Employee Relations Minister Damien Tudehope and Transport Minister David Elliott issued a joint statement on Saturday in which they called the union’s plan “destructive”.
“The application to the independent FWC was made following legal advice received by the government that the proposed action is prima facie unlawful,” the ministers said.
“Sydney Trains and NSW Train Link believe the notified action is also dangerous and could have financial impacts on commuters.
“The submission comes after the combined railway unions rejected a number of formal requests from transport officials to withdraw the action.”
Ticket inspectors were seen at some Sydney stations on Monday morning, including at Central.
The NSW Government previously made train journeys free for a 12-day period around Easter to apologize for shutting down the rail network, a move which was also made against the backdrop of the long-running industrial dispute with the train staff.
Originally published as Sydney Trains: NSW Premier Responds to RTBU Threat to Disable Opal Card Readers