NSW Transport Minister David Elliott says the union should have thrashed out its issues with the state government before half a million commuters were inconvenienced.
He said a misinterpretation over assurances given by the rail union about rostering had forced the state’s transport agency to shut down the rail network on Monday.
Speaking to reporters at his Baulkham Hills electorate office, he claimed the agreement reached in the Fair Work Commission at the weekend was “deliberately misinterpreted” at short notice.
“What was agreed to on Saturday was in question, which was why last night at 8 o’clock we should have bedded down these questions … [but] they did not even bother showing up, ”he said, referring to the rail union.
“The public are pretty upset with the union today. It has been a long time since the city was brought to a standstill with zero notice. ”
Mr Elliott said he has been meeting with unions since before he was sworn in to the transport portfolio in December, and has been able to negotiate matters “with clean hands, in good faith”.
“Already in the two months that I’ve been the minister, we’ve been able to avert industrial action. I think that I have shown a high level of respect and regard for their claims, ”he said.
“But of course, what we’re seeing at the moment, is them pushing the envelope.
“I will not be conceding on unreasonable things.”
He added: “I do not think the electorate as a whole is going to cop this sort of industrial bastardry.”
Mr Elliott said he expected some residents to be looking to the Metro North West Line today, with its driverless services, and saying, “I’ll have a bit of that action”.
Asked whether he took any responsibility for the major disruption to commuters, Mr Elliott said: “The buck stops with me. I’m the transport minister, which is why I’m horrified that an agreement made on Saturday afternoon that could have been clarified last night, therefore avoiding the industrial action this morning, has occurred. ”
Mr Elliott sheeted blame for the shutdown on both the rail union and the Labor Party.
“This is nothing but political. It is no coincidence that 12 weeks before a federal election and 12 months before a state election that this is occurring, ”he said.
“[The union] deliberately did not turn up last night [at Fair Work] because they knew that was going to be the trigger for their industrial action. ”
The state’s rail operators and the rail union are back before the Fair Work Commission this morning.