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  • Writer's picturePaul Monaro

Unions and Soccer Hooligans

I rarely catch trains or buses. And traffic congestion never makes me late for work. So, I don’t have a personal gripe against any people or organisations involved in the ongoing public transport dispute. I am purely an observer, seeing on a weekly and even daily basis what a lot of NSW commuters are going through. I admit to having no in-depth knowledge of the workings of politics and industrial action. I just write as a member of Ms. and Mr. Public who has a view that I would be surprised if I hold alone.

What started as disputes and stoppages in the rail sector had, perhaps, initial public sympathy. But several weeks ago, when the government negotiated and agreed to union demands, the Rail Tram and Bus Union said thanks, but we’re going ahead with our strike anyway. This was not long after ‘Blockade Australia’ protesters outraged Sydney by holding up Port Botany and surrounding roads for a day. The press was all over these radical greenie activists. Hard-working people who battle roads and transport daily have no sympathy for this brand of protest.

But when the unions decided to go ahead with their action despite government concessions, were they any more justified than these illegal protesters? Or were their actions even more outrageous, because of their great power and ability to create chaos on a massive scale?

As it drags on, and the government continues to offer solutions, disruptions are now greater than ever. It begs the question, what is the real agenda of the RTBU? Is it a desire to dominate and display power over a weak government? Is it mostly political, to help topple a party already on the ropes? To me, it's starting to look like trouble for trouble’s sake. Now I wonder, how is this union any different from the soccer hooligans of the past, who lost interest in the original goal (sorry), and turned up merely to create as much bloodshed as they possibly could? In the rail dispute, what was the original goal? Apparently, it was to ensure commuter safety. In that regard, were the original union demands justifiable and warranted.? Possibly not. Read Jordan Baker’s August 31 article from the Sydney Morning Herald for a view that hasn’t been widely expressed:

The white flag has been raised by the Liberals, and the union’s justification for continuing to attack is that it’s not just about safety. It’s also about pay. The government's proposed pay-rise is not enough. This is while everyone is doing it tough compared to a few years ago (everyone except those soon to benefit from the Federal Government’s Stage 3 tax cuts). Most workers are justified in asking for a pay rise. But just as you don’t favor one of your children over another, you can’t say a nurse, teacher, or construction worker is less entitled than a public transport worker. Now, where is that money coming from? The state and country are in eye-watering dept after the pandemic and a swathe of disasters. State debt that grows by tens of millions daily due to people with questionable intentions. In the current political climate, flood victims earn more sympathy than stadium lobbyists. And for my vote, if there are a few spare dollars for a pay rise give it to the nurses and teachers.

I believe Dominic Perrottet has the integrity and vision to be an outstanding premier. Unfortunately, he is caught in the political trap of second-guessing how to handle every new disaster because the bigger picture is the looming election. Many of his decisions when being attacked from all sides have been questionable. Now he says he has drawn a line in the sand. My sympathy is with the commuters, and my support is with the premier. The next round could be interesting. If Perrottet can stare down his opponent in this battle, the agenda of the union may just backfire.

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