Commuters have been warned to expect major disruption and delays to Sydney’s public transport and on roads during Thursday despite a planned bus drivers’ strike being ruled illegal in a late-night Industrial Relations Commission hearing.
Hundreds of bus drivers failed to turn up to depots in Sydney’s inner west and south early on Thursday morning, which the Transport Management Centre said would have a “severe” impact on the morning commute across the city.
The drivers’ absence comes the morning after Transport for NSW applied for an urgent hearing in the Industrial Relations Commission to challenge the planned strike, which was due to start at midnight on Wednesday.
The hearing was held at 8pm on Wednesday. A government spokeswoman said the IRC reviewed the evidence and found the planned strike to be illegal, and ordered the drivers to work as normal on Thursday.
Earlier, a total of 1200 public bus drivers had voted to go on a 24-hour strike to protest at NSW Transport Minister Andrew Constance’s plan to privatise some bus services.
The strike will directly affect bus services that run from the Leichhardt, Burwood, Kingsgrove and Tempe depots, including all school buses in southern Sydney and the inner west.
The TMC spokesman said it would have a flow-on effect to the city’s roads, as people drove to work instead of using public transport, while train and light rail services were expected to be more congested.
Union representatives blamed Mr Constance’s snap decision to privatise the services for the strike.
Chris Preston, the head of the bus division of the RTBU, said the union heard about the IRC’s order at 5am, and it was too late logistically for drivers to turn up to their shifts, even if drivers wanted to.
“They would tell me to get nicked,” Mr Preston said, of the expected reaction from bus drivers if he tried to get them to return to work.
“They are that serious that they have been betrayed.
“He’s also gone straight to the media,” Mr Preston said of Mr Constance. “He’s broken the consultation clause in the award, which is illegal.”
Mr Constance has attributed the decision to privatise services in the inner west to a high level of customer complaints. But Mr Preston said that if the minister expected a private operator to deliver better services on the same crowded roads, with the same buses and drivers “he’s having a go at the commuters”.
Mr Constance said the union’s excuse that it could not contact drivers on Thursday morning was “lame”.
“The union bosses think they run the show; the bottom line is they don’t in this state,” the minister told 2GB.
He said the performance of bus services in the inner west – where 13 per cent of buses had been failing to leave depots on time – had been “absolutely unacceptable”.
“Let’s give the private operator a go,” he said.
At 5am on Thursday, the TMC said customers who usually caught buses in Sydney’s inner west and south should “make alternative arrangements today due to planned industrial action which will significantly disrupt the network for the next 24 hours”.
No school bus services will be operating in Sydney’s inner west or south, with parents advised to make alternative arrangements. School Opal passes will be valid on any mode of public transport.
“All customers affected by the industrial action are advised to plan ahead, catch the train or light rail or if possible, make arrangements with employers to work flexibly,” the TMC spokesman said.
“Road users and public transport customers across the network are advised to allow plenty of additional travel time during peak periods as traffic is expected to be heavier than usual and patronage on other modes of transport will be increased.”
The TMC said routes 438 and 461 would operate a limited and modified service along Parramatta Road during the morning and afternoon peak – between 6am and 10am, and 3pm and 7pm. A number of charter buses could be seen running regularly along Parramatta Road early on Thursday.
Route 400 (Bondi Junction to Burwood) is affected by the disruption. Customers using this service to travel to Sydney Airport were advised to catch the train instead. Regular bus routes impacted:
401 406 407 408 412 413 415 418 422 423 425
426 428 430 431 433 436 437 438 439 441 442
444 445 460 461 462 463 464 466 470 473 476
477 478 479 480 483 487 490 491 492 493 495
502 504 508 526
L23 L28 L37 L38 L39
M20 M30 M41
X04 X25 School bus routes impacted:
560S 561S 562S 563S 565S 566S 567S 568S 569S 570S 571S 572S 573S 574S 575S 576S 577S 578S 579S 580S 581S 582S 583S 584S 585S 586S 587S 588S 589S 590S 591S 592S 593S 595S 596S 597S 598S 600S 601S 602S 603S 604S 605S 606S 607S 608S 609S 610S 611S 612S 613S 614S 615S 616S 617S 618S 619S 620S 621S 622S 623S 624S 625S 626S 627S 628S 629S 630S 631S 632S 633S 634S 635S 636S 637S 638S 639S 640S 641S 642S 643S 644S 645S 646S 647S 648S 650S 651S 652S 654S 655S 656S 657S 658S 659S 660S 661S 662S 663S 664S 670S 671S 672S 673S 674S 675S 676S 677S 678S 679S 680S 681S 682S 683S 684S 685S 690S 691S 692S 693S 700S 701S 702S 710S 711S 712S 713S 714S 715S 716S 718S 720S 721S 725S 726S 730S 731S 732S 733S 734S 735S 736S 738S 740S 741S 743S 745S 750S 751S 753S 755S 757S 760S 761S 762S 763S 764S 765S 765W 766S 767S 768S 769S 780S 781S