Rail workers could shut down Opal card readers at Sydney train stations as early as next week, with union members voting in favour of industrial action.
The move by the Rail Tram and Bus Union (RTBU) is the latest in an ugly dispute with the NSW government that has lasted months.
RTBU members voted “overwhelmingly” in favour of having the option to turn off Opal readers, with 97 per cent voting yes to giving commuters free train fares.
Union delegates are yet decide when the union plans to shut down Opal readers.
NCA NewsWire understands that the earliest point the RTBU could notify the government of plans for free train travel is next week.
“The decision on when the RTBU will notify the government of any plan to turn off Opal machines will be made by delegates,” RTBU NSW secretary Alex Claassens said.
“Commuters deserve safe trains and workers deserve fair wages and conditions.
“It’s disappointing that we have to take any action at all to ensure that, but unfortunately the NSW Government hasn’t left us with any other options.
The union must inform the government of its plans to suspend payments for train travel at least three days before doing so.
The union had planned to shut down readers a month ago, however, had to scrap those plans after the government lodged an application with the Fair Work Commission to block the move.
The state government has accused the union of “economic vandalism” over the attempts to shut down Opal readers, claiming the move would be illegal.
“I don’t believe any court in this state would say inciting people to destroy public property is anything but illegal,” Transport Minister David Elliot said in September.
“It is also ripping off the taxpayers of this state who paid for this equipment. This is not union-owned equipment. This is equipment owned by the taxpayers of NSW,” he said.
“They cannot destroy government property and put people’s lives at risk.”