Bus drivers across Sydney implemented a "fare-free day" on June 1 as part of their campaign of industrial action against the NSW government's plan to privatise buses in the inner west. Drivers from 12 depots around the city turned off their Opal Card machines and wore plain clothes to draw the attention of passengers to the threat to public bus services.
Rail, Tram and Bus Union (RTBU) divisional secretary Chris Preston said drivers were angry at the government's move: "They're out there trying to let the public know what [Transport] Minister [Andrew] Constance is up to because the public overwhelmingly do not want their buses privatised. They want to keep them in public hands," he said.
"Private operators will put profits before people," RTBU bus division president David Woollams said. "As a result, the community will get higher fares, fewer services and the removal of local bus stops."
The "fare-free day" follows a 24-hour strike by bus drivers at four inner-western depots on May 18. The union is planning further action, both industrial and in the community, to stop the government's plan going ahead.
The RBTU has warned that the sell-off of the inner-western bus routes is just the first step towards the privatisation of the whole public bus system. The move to privatise buses follows the sell-off of the ferry system several years ago, and the move towards private operation of the new Metro train lines now in the pipeline.
A leaflet distributed by the union states: "More than 200 bus routes, the entire inner western fleet, will be sold off in the biggest bus privatisation in inner Sydney. Andrew Constance's privatisation will mean: Higher fares; crowded buses; fewer services."
The union has established a public campaign against the bus sell-off at and is calling for widespread community support.