No Mercy for Wyd "Blackmailers"

By James Madden
The Australian

July 8, 2008,25197,23985602-2702,00.html

THE NSW Government is prepared to use draconian legislation to thwart a campaign of "industrial terror" by rail workers, who are threatening a strike during World Youth Day's busiest event because of a pay dispute.

The Rail Tram and Bus Union yesterday announced plans for a 24-hour strike by rail workers on July 17, the day more than 200,000 pilgrims -- on top of the normal commuter crowd of 500,000 -- are expected to travel to the Sydney CBD to see the Pope's motorcade pass through the city's streets.

NSW Premier Morris Iemma said yesterday he would "not be blackmailed into giving them (the union) what they want as a result of these industrial terror tactics".

"The threat to embarrass the state on one of the most important days of recent history will not cut ice with the Government," Mr Iemma said.

The union has rejected the Government's offer of an 8 per cent pay rise over two years.

The NSW Government will today seek intervention from the Australian Industrial Relations Commission, but The Australian understands Mr Iemma is willing to enforce the state's special Essential Sevices laws to ensure any proposed strike cannot go ahead if the AIRC rules in favour of the union.

Under the legislation, which various NSW governments have threatened to use but never enforced since it was passed two decades ago, interfering with the operation of essential services, such as public transport, is illegal. Penalties include fines of tens of thousands of dollars for individuals involved, while offending organisations can be shut down.

RTBU NSW secretary Nick Lewocki said he understood the planned strike action would cause commuter chaos on a day when the public transport system would already be stretched to the limit.

"But again we ask the commuters, the public out there, to understand you can't have frontline public sector essential workers being told they need to take a pay cut and cut back services," Mr Lewocki said.

Mr Iemma warned there would be a public backlash if the union went ahead with industrial action.

"The leadership are letting the public down and their members down, thinking that they can either blackmail or bluff us into changing the offer because we've got this big event," the Premier said. "The public are not going to stand for this sort of rubbish and nonsense. I mean, Sydneysiders are proud that we hold these global events and we do so successfully."

Meanwhile, the issue of whether the Pope should apologise to victims of sexual abuse by members of the church remains unresolved. Cardinal George Pell said yesterday the Pope was "likely to express shame and regret" for abuse on his visit.

On Sunday, the Australian head of the Anglican Church, Archbishop Phillip Aspinall, said the Pope should apologise to Australians abused by priests, just as he had done earlier this year to victims in the US.

Victims group Broken Rites's spokeswoman Chris MacIsaac said an apology was not enough.

"The apology is necessary but the apology must come with action," she said. "The church's processes to date don't provide adequately for all victims."


Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.