Sydney Bus Strike Over Masks Called Off

August 20, 2020 Updated: August 20, 2020

Sydney bus drivers have called off a planned strike after the NSW government agreed to their demands for a review of mandatory mask-use on public transport.

The Rail, Tram and Bus Union met with government officials at the Industrial Relations Commission on Aug. 20, in hopes an agreement could be reached to avoid a strike next week.

The union had sent a letter to the Premier Gladys Berejiklian on Aug. 17, demanding that community consultation take place over government plans to privatise some bus services.

The letter also asked that mask-use to be mandated where the number of people on board public transport outnumbered the green social distancing stickers, and for clarity on who was responsible for enforcing social distancing.

“The issue of mask wearing on public transport has been significantly elevated this week and the NSW Government has undertaken to review health advice and guidelines if community infection levels increase,” union secretary David Babineau said in a statement on Aug. 20 evening.

“Bus drivers and their union will remain vigilant and we hope for a more constructive response from government to any future concerns so we can avoid reaching this point again.”

Transport Minister Andrew Constance thanked the union for cancelling the strike in a statement, and said the parties would meet again on Monday.

Earlier this week he ruled out mandating mask use on public transport, and argued the strike would force more people on to less buses and actually put the non-striking drivers at more risk.

“When it comes to masks, we get our advice from (NSW chief medical officer) Kerry Chant—we don’t have advice to mandate masks across our community and fine people, but we have advice urging the community to put them on,” he said.

By Tiffanie Turnbull