07 July 2008

World Youth Day -- A Transportation Nightmare

The World Youth Day was always going to be a challenge in terms of transportation as it was going to require the closure of roads and the implementing of special declared areas (look at the legislation which is posted elsewhere on this blog). However, with the Rail, Tram, and Bus Union's decision to hold strike action on 17 July 2008, this challenge has just gone from perhaps being manageable to being a nightmare.

Traffic congestion was expected to be heavy, but not outrageous as many people were expected to fore go the car and take public transport, either train or bus. A strike on this day would make it impossible to leave the car at home. The alternative would be for employers to just write the day off and make it a holiday.

One of the feature events of the WYD is the Pope taking a dinghy ride from Rose Bay across the harbour to the Opera House foreshore and then legging it up George Street in the Pope Mobile (I have always preferred the Bat Mobile myself) with the trusty faithful literally legging it up George Street in hot pursuit. The idea would have been for the pilgrims and other interested onlookers to train and bus it down to the Circular Quay. A strike makes this impossible. I guess people will be doing a lot of walking on 17 July.

The RTBU is striking because they feel that after 11 months of haggling with the government and RailCorp that the 2.5% cap on wage rises is an insult. There is no doubt that the enterprise bargaining agreement that employees are on now needs updating. The question that remains is whether 2.5% is an adequate response to the demands of employees.

I would figure that after 11 months morale is low, staff are probably looking for alternative employment where their efforts are more adequately rewarded, or they just really cannot be bothered working in any meaningful way than just going through the motions which would see a significant drop in service standards (some might already argue that rail and bus service was already poor).

The intention to strike on 17 July really does up the ante as the pending transportation nightmare is sure to get a lot of airplay not only locally but internationally. This sort of image is hardly one NSW wants to be putting out to the world.

Some might consider this to be blackmail, others might consider it to be a good negotiating strategy, I think it shows that the union is in desperation mode and that this is the only conceivable way that they see in ending this negotiation. I have a sneaky suspicion that the NSW government will ride out the strike no matter what.

The pressures on the Premier are already immense and if he lets this slide then this is certain to cement the image of a "do nothing bloke" not worthy of the State's top job.

The fun continues!

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