Culture

Melburnians Are Dealing With A Train Strike By Ditching Work And Donating The Fare To Refugee Aid

Melbourne, you continue to be very good.

If you’re in Melbourne right now, there’s a good chance you have no idea how to get anywhere. With Metro still in a stalemate with their worker’s union about pay, training and working conditions, the city’s trains have been shut down from 10am-2pm, with the resulting disturbances more realistically affecting the network from 8.30am-4.30pm.

I have to make it past the MCG to the other side of town tonight and — as both roads and restarted public transport will be predictably packed — I may as well just start walking now.

Remember me fondly.

All this comes just a week after a similar halt on the city’s trams, and it doesn’t look like it’ll be going away any time soon. Though Metro have offered its workers a 17 percent pay rise over the next four years, they’ve done little to address the other concerns outlined by the Rail, Tram and Bus Union. Speaking to the ABC, the group’s state secretary claimed workers were being denied training opportunities and having their routes severely messed with. And, offering a more personal viewpoint, a Metro train driver also expanded on these points in a Reddit comment thread last week.

“This dispute is not about money, it is not about pay rises,” they wrote. “It’s about working conditions and my ability to function as a human being while trying to do a job that I take very seriously.”

Citing drastic changes to routes and rostering that can make it difficult for drivers to report for work or manage fatigue, the driver passionately explained the need for a strike and justified its relative inconvenience for the public.

“I’m sorry the short term industrial action is causing issues for passengers but I’ve got a long time left until I retire and I want to make sure [this is] a job I can guarantee is safe for myself and the thousands of people I take to work every day,” they wrote.

Luckily, this hasn’t proved to be as much of a hassle as first thought. Yesterday, acting director of VicRoads Nick Fisher suggested people take the day off if possible to avoid massive traffic jams, and everyone acted as though they had scored a sick note from their dad on the day of the athletics carnival. Both traffic reporters and people who definitely shouldn’t be using Twitter while driving have noted that Melbourne’s been a bit of a ghost town for most of the day.

Though that may not hold out for much longer, the most remarkable part of all this is what people have been doing with their newfound downtime.

Inspired by the pictures which went viral yesterday of young Syrian refugees Galip and Aylan Kurdi, who were found dead on a Turkish beach, Melbourne man James Wright has set up a charity campaign to raise funds for refugee aid. With an initial goal of $2,500, Wright has asked people to donate the money they would have ordinarily spent on public transport to Australia for UNHCR: a group which supports the UN Refugee Agency. As of this afternoon, the campaign has raised more than $13,000.

“We saw one of the most confronting images ever seen: the picture of a toddler not much older than my youngest daughter, washed ashore after drowning trying to escape Syria,” he wrote. “There is no world where this can be acceptable [so let’s] help those directly affected.”

Stating the campaign was on behalf of his daughters and “a better world,” Wright wanted to “show the Australian government that we do care about humanitarian disasters even when we are far removed from them.”

“[Let’s] show what Melbournians can achieve in 24 hours when we need to.”

Between this and last week’s Border Force disaster, I feel like they’re beginning to get the idea.

You can donate to the campaign here.