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Rail union playing politics: Dominic Perrottet

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The NSW Premier has accused the rail union of toying with public funds after it voted to switch off smart card readers during the afternoon peak.

From Thursday, Opal card readers will be switched off at NSW train and metro stations on weekdays between 3-7pm after members of the Rail, Tram and Bus Union voted overwhelmingly in favour of the action.

“Let’s call this for what it is – this is the union movement disrupting the citizens of NSW for political purposes,” Dominic Perrottet said on Tuesday.

“It’s not my money. It’s our people’s money.

“It’s time for the union movement to look after the people of our state, not penalise them.”

Mr Perrottet said he would seek advice from Industrial Relations Minister Damien Tudehope on whether the industrial action could be challenged.

RTBU leader Alex Claassens said about 97 per cent of members had voted to close down the readers after weeks of private conciliation made little progress.

The union intended to cause maximum pain to the government while keeping commuters on side, he said.

“Everybody is fed up with the ongoing rail dispute but we’ve no choice but to continue to do whatever it takes for as long as it takes to force the NSW government to provide safe trains for commuters and fair wages and conditions for workers,” Mr Claassens said.

The union and government are locked in a protracted dispute over a new enterprise agreement.

Previously in the campaign, the union left Opal ticket gates open – but the majority of commuters continued to tap on and off.

The union and government are also at odds over a Korean-built fleet of intercity trains, which the RTBU says are unsafe to operate. They have been in storage since 2019.

Mr Perrottet accused union figures of openly conspiring with members of the opposition at the weekend’s NSW Labor conference, in the lead-up to the March election.

“It was so blatant. This wasn’t at a union conference. This was the Labor conference,” he said.

“The union say they’re going to campaign for the next six months with this continued sustained action.”

Some Sydney commuters could be overcharged if they can’t tap off once machines shut down at 3pm.

Commuters who do not tap off are charged a maximum fee, as high as the daily cap of $16.80 for an adult.

Those commuters would have to contact Transport for NSW to seek a fare adjustment, RTBU’s Craig Turner said.

A Transport for NSW spokesman said deactivating the Opal gates would cause management and operational issues across the Sydney Trains and NSW Trainlink network.

They cited a broad range of concerns, including compromising employee safety, passenger management problems, issues with Park & Ride car parks and lost fare revenue.

-AAP



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