With the Sydney Trains strike now official, it’s best we keep our focus and blame those who are actually responsible for it.



Last night, it was announced that the other shoe had finally dropped, with Sydney’s oft-embattled rail staff planning to walk off the job for 24 hours on January 29. The response has been mixed, spreading all the way from support, to, “they’re asking for too much,” all the way to “how dare they, those useless (expletive deleted).”



I understand our outrage. Our rail system is famously poor. You can’t rely on it, but you can rely on it to disappoint you. Overpaying for a service that is fundamentally broken is fundamentally irksome. We need someone to blame, and those who push the buttons, or those who offer limp apologies over the PA system are responsible.

Because they’re closest to us, the most accessible. The easiest to blame.



But, as users of the service, it’s up to us blame the right people.

Minus research or a basic knowledge of what has been happening, it seems like it should be a non-issue. The two figures of the desired payrise have been disputed – either 6%, or, as advertised by Transport Minister Andrew Constance, 24% – but this is far deeper than a percentage, and the only reason I know is because I have a vested interest. A man on the inside, as it were. A family member (before he recently walked), was a standby driver for the current system. Standby drivers pretty much fill the gaps. If there’s a breakdown, emergency or if someone calls in sick, standby drivers were there. Essentially, they’d keep the network moving. However, due to a lack of trained staff (he claims it was a cost-saving measure, as it takes over 12 months to train new drivers), the emergency staff were covering the usual staff, which left no-one there when these problems surfaced recently, hence the memorable moment of everyone standing packed on platforms with no clue. But, know this: the crew knew as much as the passengers.

Which is front-and-centre to the problem.

The reason why he left was that he was continually placed in a difficult situation every time he went to work. He no longer felt he could do the job safely. It was a constant battle of wanting to do a job he was proud of versus the very real prospect of being physically and mentally unable to do it. Pardon me for borrowing a tired quote, but he represents the complaint of the silent majority on payroll.

However, when those voices grow loud on the 29th, and especially if louder established voices drown them out, focusing on the inconvenience we’ll all face on that day, just remember who represents what: the workers looking to secure their due, or those who represent something else entirely. Compare the pair.



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