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Melbourne trains shutdown as union and operator battle over pay deal -

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DAVID MARK: Train services in Melbourne have ground to a half today as staff take part in a four hour strike.

The train operator, Metro, has been locked in a dispute over pay and conditions with the rail union.

Commuters had been warned to expect chaos, but so far, many services have been empty and the roads have been mostly clear.

Stephanie Corsetti reports.

STATION ANNOUNCER: There will be no train services departing after 9 am.

STEPHANIE CORSETTI: It was an unusual sight at Melbourne's Flinders Street station. The train timetable screen was virtually blank this morning.

Nick Harvey and Josh Quioga do sales work for a charity and are facing a lengthy bus trip today.

(Question to Nick Harvey) You seem a bit confused, you're looking at the timetable?

NICK HARVEY: Yeah, we're trying to work out for work, we travel around quite a bit, so now I've got to try and catch a bus to find out where, where to go so. Sort of just working out how to get out to Sunbury. Massive disruption, bit of a pain in the butt. (Laughs).

JOSH QUIOGA: I think it's stupid, they're putting everyone out of work, and getting places and it's a real hassle.

NICK HARVEY: Obviously, Metro could've done a better job of sorting this out. It's a really bad image for Melbourne.

STEPHANIE CORSETTI: So at the moment you're trying to work out … ?

NICK HARVEY: We have over a two hour trip just to get to our own jobs which we're supposed to be at within like an hour. So that's s a kick in the face.

STEPHANIE CORSETTI: So you'll probably get less work done today because of this?


JOSH QUIOGA: We work on commission as well so it's probably the worst thing that could possibly happen.

STEPHANIE CORSETTI: After stern warnings from train authorities about delays, other passengers were shocked to see many carriages empty.

RAIL COMMUNITER: Actually, we got on a train at Blackburn and we had seats to ourselves nearly all the way to Richmond. It was very easy, obviously very quiet. A lot of people have taken the day off I would suggest.

PROTESTER CHANTING: What do you want?

CROWD: Fair Deal!

PROTESTER CHANTING: When do we want it?


STEPHANIE CORSETTI: The Rail, Tram and Bus Union has been pushing for improved pay and changes to driver training.

It's staging a rally in Melbourne this afternoon.

Trams and buses are still operating. Many office workers are bracing themselves for a slow journey home.

OFFICE WORKER: I am staying later in the city, yeah, to try and avoid that.

STEPHANIE CORSETTI: Do you think it's justified to have this disruption?

OFFICE WORKER: Oh, look, it's hard to say. Like on one hand they absolutely have the right to, you know, make this sort of stand if that' s what they really want. But, on the other hand it's a public service that we pay for continuously.

I don't see how it should affect, you know, the people who do have to commute between 10 and 2 especially, you know, families or those with accessibility issues. I think, yeah, that's really a bit unfair.

STEPHANIE CORSETTI: Victoria's Employment and Public Transport Minister wouldn't be drawn on possible economic effects resulting from the industrial action.

The Minister, Jacinta Allan, said the union's decision to stop work between 10 and 2 today is unnecessary.

JACINTA ALLAN: There were discussion held yesterday, so it just doesn't make sense that you'd walk out of that room, go out on strike the next day, and then look at re-starting discussions again next week.

STEPHANIE CORSETTI: Minister Allan said many workers many have chosen to stay at home or sacrifice their pay to have a day off.

JACINTA ALLAN: This action needs to end today; it needs to end and what has to start again is the negotiations and the conversations at the negotiating table to get this matter sorted.

STEPHANIE CORSETTI: This taxi driver is already reporting an abnormal Friday.

TAXI DRIVER: People have written the day off and we won't see them today.

STEPHANIE CORSETTI: Public Transport Victoria's boss Mark Wild said staff will do their best to have services back on from half past three.

MARK WILD: Well, we're very lucky in Melbourne to have a very integrated transport network with trams, buses, various options so the sense I get, this is very disruptive for people, but people are getting on with it. Our job is to put the best options in place, and we're very lucky in Melbourne to have an integrated transport system that's got many options.

STEPHANIE CORSETTI: The roads authority, VicRoads, says the morning peak started 15 minutes earlier and around nine o'clock traffic was lighter than normal, but it is warning motorists about potential disruptions resulting from today's rally.

PROTESTER CHANTING: How are we going to get it?

CROWD: Fight for it.

PROTESTER CHANTING: How are we going to get it?

CROWD: Fight for it.

STEPHANIE CORSETTI: As members continue marching through the city, commuters will have to wait for services to get back on track

DAVID MARK: Stephanie Corsetti reporting.