Bus and Tram Express
Bus and Tram Express

Information Session leaves questions unanswered

Apr 15, 2016News


Five months after the first announcement that public transport in Newcastle faced privatisation, Transport for NSW have finally met with workers.

While the union had repeatedly requested that Transport for NSW speak with drivers about what privatisation will mean for jobs and services, today’s meeting was more an exercise in PR by the government than actually answering questions.

IMG_2360The government has still refused, despite a two-hour meeting, to give definite answers on a number of issues that are important to members.

We still have no answer on the future of Hamilton and Belmont Depots, with the government refusing to provide an answer, only saying that the location of depots is “a matter for the new operator”.

Newcastle Buses cover a wide region, with staff coming from the south, west, and north of Newcastle to come to work.

The split between the Hamilton and Belmont depots creates ease for workers, and ensures that operators have support across the network.

Combining depots, for example in one location in Beresfield, would limit travel options for drivers, and make it more difficult should a bus encounter difficulties on the road.

Meanwhile, the government has claimed that the private operator will offer “the same job at the same level” as workers currently have now, but that isn’t the comfort that the government thinks it is.

While it may be the “same” job, it will be with a different employer, with different priorities for the future of the company, for the future of the network, and for the future of the workforce. There is also no guarantee about just how long these jobs will last once the new operator begins making changes.

image2-660x330Drivers also haven’t been provided with any certainty that redundancies will be available for those who don’t want to work for the private provider in the new world order.

One question that has been answered, and one that the Union has been pushing since day one, is the fact that the government will be privatising the network.

While they have pretended for five months like they hadn’t made their mind up about privatisation, it’s clear what we’d known all along – the network was always going to be sold off.

Their dedication to privatisation goes so far as to keep STA out of the tender process completely.

What’s their reason for this?

They want to “harness the expertise and experience” of the private sector, rather than rely on the expertise and experience of the organisation that has been running this network for decades.

IMG_2369-1If they are convinced that the government would do so badly, they should let the STA tender under the exact same rules as everyone else.

The fact is that the STA would come in cheaper than any other operator and still provide a strong service to the community.

The reality is that the government isn’t after the best system, they are just after a private system.

We’ve come away from this meeting with more questions than answers, but this will be a long fight to ensure that jobs are protected, and members get treated fairly throughout the whole process.