After several negotiations, Melbourne tram drivers will walk off the job for four hours on Thursday as they continue to knock heads with Yarra Trams.
This will be the third headache for light rail commuters in a matter of weeks, but the Rail, Tram and Bus Union says it is Yarra Trams who should bare the blame.
“We apologise profusely to the travelling public that it’s had to come to a third stoppage, but ultimately the Government and Yarra Trams are sitting on their hands and have not come to the table in good faith,” union secretary Lubo Grigorovitch told D*scribe.
A pay dispute and safety concerns have been the topic of dispute between the union and Yarra Trams over the last few months. Drivers want a 6 per cent pay increase over three years, doubling what Yarra Trams has already put on the table.
Yarra Trams chief executive officer Nicolas Gindt says they have offered the union two enterprise agreements that involves improving the current wage agreement, but increasing more part-time employees from 4 per cent to 15 per cent. The union says this is something it simply will not accept.
“We are disappointed and we believe this strike is unnecessary. We are open to negotiate further to the RTBU, hoping they will come back soon to the negotiating table,” said Gindt.
This time of the year does not come without a buzz as school holidays and the Royal Melbourne Show draws crowds across the state. The AFL finals series also attracts tourists from far and wide. The RTBU hoped these events would entice the Transport Minister and Yarra Trams to meet their demands and prevent the strike from taking place. However, the RTBU says it has not had any correspondence from the government.
“I’m not sure if the Minister is asleep at the wheel, but I think she needs to be reminded that this involves tax-payer’s money but they seem reluctant to get involved. I’m a taxpayer and I think that is unacceptable,” Grigorovitch said.
“We just want a deal that’s fair and reasonable for our membership. We want to put these negotiations behind us.”
Trams across the network will stop operations between 10am and 2pm on Thursday. Yarra Trams urges passengers to allow extra travel time and to seek alternate modes of transport.
Replacement buses will run every 20 to 30 minutes across the network, prioritising areas with hospitals, universities and shopping centres.
The union is planning another network disruption on October 10 if it does not come to an agreement with Yarra Trams.