Bus and Tram Express
Bus and Tram Express

Member update: COVID-19

Mar 21, 2020COVID19

Dear members,

Firstly, thank you again for everything you are doing during these difficult times. As tram and bus employees, you’re obviously on the front line and your dedication and hard work is certainly not going unnoticed at the moment. Having a membership that stands together, remains calm under pressure, and is so dedicated to keeping our community safe is something we should all be incredibly proud of. You can be sure that the RTBU is working with employers and the government to keep our members as safe as possible.


Keolis Downer is now allowing drivers to force doors at all stops. This means people don’t have to press the door button and potentially spread disease to get on or off. All employers are also providing ready access to hand sanitiser.



In Newcastle, cash fare collection has been suspended by the RTBU. No repercussions for this are expected.

Region 6

In Region 6 the RTBU first brought forward the idea to cordon off of the first seats, ensuring that drivers have reduced exposure to passengers. If there is an extension of the 1.5m personal space recommendation, drivers are now covered.


STA has agreed to close the Opal machine closest to the driver (t1) and it is expected signs informing passengers of this will be erected today.


All three operators that the RTBU deals with have now made the above measures uniform with the approval of Transport for NSW. The Union has been working with employers to make sure that members are as protected as possible. The common measures are-

1. The first opal machine closest to the driver’s cabin has been closed.

2. The passenger seats closest to the driver’s cabin have been taped off. This is a WHS

issue and is backed by law; tampering with this tape could lead to disciplinary measures.

3. ALL buses in each fleet are being cleaned nightly with appropriate product.

4. All hard surfaces in all depots are being cleaned daily with appropriate product.

5. Hand sanitiser (as well as wipes in some cases) has been distributed to employees and is also available at the depots. Some employers have had to order product from interstate, so please make sure you use only what you need. It’s getting hard to find as well as expensive and we need to make the most of what we have.

Special leave

Government Employees

1. If you ARE SICK from COVID-19, you must use your sick leave first and then Special Leave will apply.

2. If you are NOT SICK but have been directed to not attend the workplace then you are entitled to up to 20 days Special Leave. This includes caring for family members returning from overseas and caring for family members who are sick or are otherwise directed to self-isolate (closed schools etc).

Private Company Employees

1. Currently there is nothing that says private companies have to pay Special Leave,

although all are doing so or have agreed to, on a case by case basis in certain circumstances.

2. If you get sick you have to use your sick leave.

3. If you run out of sick leave then you have to use other types of leave.

4. If no leave is available you can ask the employer for special consideration.

If you qualify for self-isolation or test positive for COVID-19, documentation will be provided

What you can do to keep safe?

While it may seem simple, we cannot stress enough the importance of transport workers

following the general community health recommendations in regard to COVID-19. These include:

• Washing your hands regularly with soap and water. A simple graphic on that is included below.

• Using hand sanitiser when soap and water are not available

• Covering your sneeze or cough with your elbow or with a tissue.

• Avoiding touching your face.

• Stay home if you’re sick.

• Observe social distancing wherever possible.

• Do not travel overseas as per the latest Commonwealth Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade advice.

For bus drivers specifically:

• Police the red zones (no-standing zones) near the doors. This includes next to the driver’s cabin.

• Limit standing loads to keep people spaced out; whatever you are comfortable with. Remember: you control the bus.

For all members, you can wear a mask if you want to. Masks will not be provided at this time. The Commonwealth and State Governments are stockpiling surgical masks specifically for health professionals. We need the people who are looking after the sick to be able to do so safely; chances are we’ll be counting on them to care for us down the track.

You can see the latest government information here: https://www.health.nsw.gov.au/Infectious/diseases/Pages/coronavirus.aspx

With a constantly growing list of Frequently Asked Questions here: https://www.health.nsw.gov.au/Infectious/alerts/Pages/coronavirus-faqs.aspx

Transport for NSW has also set up a dedicated website here: stayinformed.com.au.

It’s important to remember that the nature of a viral outbreak that many of us could be affected at some point. How badly people are affected will depend to a large degree on overall health and any pre-existing conditions. Only you know your medical history so if you have any respiratory issues in particular, you need to be extra vigilant.

IMPORTANT: As always, inform the Union if you are concerned about your safety

If any member is concerned that adequate steps are not being taken to ensure your safety during this time, it is important that you contact the Tram and Bus Division Office directly on: nswbus@rtbu-nsw.asn.au or (02)9319 7277.

The Union is continuing to monitor the COVID-19 situation closely and, in addition to the weekly briefings, is in regular contact with key employers and government officials to ensure communications lines are constantly open.

We will continue to provide you with information updates as things change.

Finally, it’s more important than ever that we as a transport community band together. If you have workmates who aren’t members of the Union, now is a good time to remind them of the benefits of being in a Union.

The RTBU is here to advocate for your rights at work and support you in the unfortunate event that things go wrong. Your safety is always our number one priority, and we’ll continue to do everything we can to ensure you and the commuters of NSW are kept as safe as possible.

Remember to continue to keep informed, calm, and follow health advice. Remember too that it’s an evolving situation; some questions will not have answers yet. We’re all in this together and if we look out for each other, we’ll get through it.