Sydney commuters will not be able to ride trains for free until the middle of next month at the earliest, a union official has said.
The Rail, Tram and Bus Union has vowed to shut off Opal machines as a way of starving the NSW government of revenue, hoping it will give the union leverage in its longrunning fight over a new enterprise agreement.
The government has warned such a move would be costly, and fought back against the plans by turning to the Fair Work Commission.
The government argued the action of turning off the Opal machines wouldn’t be allowed because it hadn’t been specifically agreed to in a protected action ballot approved by RTBU members.
The union responded by asking the FWC to allow them to issue a new ballot to members, to approve the move.
“Despite all the bluster from the Premier and Transport Minister, the government didn’t actually oppose the RTBU’s move to ask the FWC to approve the workers’ right to turn off Opal machines in the future,” the union’s NSW secretary Alex Claassens told NCA NewsWire.
“The FWC is expected to approve our new protected action ballot (on Thursday).”
So the union decided to issue a new ballot to members to approve the move.
“The reaction from the Government regarding this action proves that we have found the biggest chink in their armour,” the union wrote in a message to members this week.
“We need to keep this action in our armoury … We are absolutely still committed to taking this action, just on a slightly amended timeline.”
The union said it expected to be able to begin disabling the machines within three to four weeks.
NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet earlier in the week threatened to rip up an enterprise agreement if the union went ahead with the Opal plans.
“If that action is taken, either a further strike which … inconveniences people across the state, we will seek to terminate that agreement in the Fair Work Commission,” Mr Perrottet told a radio station on Tuesday.
“Any industrial activity taken on the metro system which is costing taxpayers billions, then we will also seek to terminate.”