Bus drivers stop work over COVID-19 safety, privatisation

Stop work meeting. Photo: RTBU/Facebook

Bus driver members of the Rail, Tram and Bus Union (RTBU) held a stop-work for four hours on August 24 for improved conditions and COVID-19 safety measures, including a call for compulsory masks for passengers. The drivers had said they would strike for 48 hours.

Their action was targeted at State Transit Authority bus region 7 (north western suburbs), region 8 (northern beaches) and region 9 (eastern suburbs), because they are under threat from the New South Wales government’s push to franchise them to private operators.

RTBU bus division secretary David Babineau said the initial reason for taking action was drivers’ lack of safety. “Months after the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic, we still don’t have adequate measures needed to keep our bus drivers, transport staff, the travelling public and the wider community safe,” he said.

The union said that hundreds of buses were off the streets while members participated in a stop work meeting with the government. “Together we won crucial concessions in the fight against privatising regions 7, 8 and 9. We protected our rights at work, won a review of health regulations and secured robust community consultations for the public, whose support has been invaluable and unwavering.”

It said the battle to bring the government to the table on bus privatisation was “long and hard-fought — but our members stood together in unity”.

The Transport Action Network, a community group backed by the RTBU, said the government had now been forced to “commit to robust community consultation on the privatisation of our buses in regions 7, 8 and 9”. It added that, privatisation is “not cheaper for the public and only reduces the quality of our services.

“This fight isn’t over. With consultations locked in, we can force the government to come clean about probable changes to bus stops, routes and services under a private operator,” it said.

The campaign against the further privatisation of Sydney buses will be difficult. The government maintains it has not backed away from further privatisations. This means that the union and the community will need to escalate the “Keep Our Buses Public” campaign to force the government to end its plans to privatise buses.

[For more information on the Save Our Buses campaign, visit ourtransport.org.au.]

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