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‘This is not a strike’: Trains cancelled across NSW in government lockout, students unable to get to campus

"There will be no penalties for those unable to attend an in-person class or activity due to today's train cancellations," said a University spokesperson.

New South Wales train services have been cancelled in a government lockout this morning following ongoing disputes between Transport for NSW and the Rail, Tram and Bus Union (RTBU), leaving students across Sydney stranded on the first day of semester.

The news was announced early this morning via a tweet by Transport for NSW, citing “industrial action” as the cause for disruptions. Commuters are currently advised to “avoid travel wherever possible, use alternative modes of transport and allow extra time on other modes of transport”.

All train lines have been affected, including the T1 North Shore & Western Line, T2 Inner West and Leppington Line, T3 Bankstown Line, T4 Eastern Suburbs and Illawarra Line, T5 Cumberland Line, T7 Olympic Park Line, T8 Airport and South Line, T9 Northern Line, BMT Blue Mountains Line, CCN Central Coast and Newcastle Line, HUN Hunter Line, SCO South Coast Line, and SHL Southern Highlands Line.

“We’re aware many students will have faced a frustrating commute to campus today amid widespread cancellations across the rail network. Students should check their University email and Canvas for updates from unit-of-study coordinators,” said a spokesperson from the University of Sydney.

“There will be no penalties for those unable to attend an in-person class or activity due to today’s train cancellations. Students should contact their unit coordinators by email to discuss alternative arrangements.”

Despite government communications attributing delays to industrial action, RTBU NSW Secretary Alex Claassens told media this morning that “this is not a strike”.

“All of the people behind me… are ready to work at a minute’s notice. We’re all there, we’re ready to do the work, as we agreed in the [Fair Work] Commission late on Saturday night,” he said.

Government lawyers representing Transport for NSW management came to an agreement with the RTBU in the Fair Work Commission on Saturday in regards to protected industrial action planned for Monday, 21 February, as well as the conditions of the union’s enterprise agreement.

“There’s a range of things we’ve been asking for. It’s not about money. It’s always been about safety issues, about protections against privatisations,” said Claassens.

“It’s also been about protections for commuters to make sure we maintain a safe and clean network.”

However, it is understood that the agreement fell apart on Sunday after Transport for NSW attempted to reopen negotiations.

“It was clear at midnight following a weekend of intensive negotiations between Transport for NSW, NSW TrainLink and the RBTU, that Sydney Trains and NSW TrainLink would not be able to safely operate train services,” said Transport for NSW in an official statement.

In a statement to Honi, Welfare Action Group Convenors Grace Wallman and Eamonn Murphy said: “We stand in support of transport workers and strongly condemn the NSW government’s decision today to block out the rail workforce of NSW by shutting down the train network. We call on the government to fulfil its responsibility to protect transport workers’ right to industrial action and collaborate with unions in good faith on a fair Enterprise Agreement and other protections. 

“We further condemn the dishonesty of Transport Minister David Elliott and the broader NSW Government for their demonisation of workers and anti-union rhetoric during this crisis of their own making. Worker’s rights are human rights, and we stand with workers today and always.”

The train cancellations also come on the first day of semester one at the University of Sydney, with many students across the state unable to attend their classes.

“Furthermore, we recognise and stand with USyd students who have been unable to attend University and work today or have had to endure dangerous and expensive commuting conditions, especially as the start of semester is such a crucial time for many,” said Wallman and Murphy.

“The impact on students, particularly those reliant on consistent work for income and those who live far away, is immense, and could have been prevented if the NSW Government had not abrogated its responsibility to ensure worker’s rights.”

*Note: This article was updated at 4:03pm to include the University’s official response regarding attendance policy.