Keeping Ferries Public A Big Win For Sydney Commuters

The NSW Government announced today it will keep Sydney Ferries in public hands after a long fought campaign by the Maritime Union, residents and supporters.

The Maritime Union of Australia said the decision to keep Sydney Ferries in public hands would prove to be to the overwhelming benefit of Sydney commuters and tourists who are travelling on the vessels in record numbers.

"We believe that the ferries in public ownership safeguards quality services for commuters but there is no question that the service needs to show incremental improvement. For our part the MUA is committed to increasing productivity", said Paddy Crumlin, National Secretary of the Maritime Union of Australia.

"Today the Minister for Transport and Roads, David Campbell, recognised that already this year the service had begun to make solid improvements and this is no fluke. The Sydney Ferries enterprise Bargaining Agreement (EBA) negotiated earlier this year delivers major reform in line with the recommendations of the Walker Inquiry and took nine months of negotiations.

"Maritime workers are an integral factor in the ferries' future operations and they delivered the agreement in good faith with no industrial action. The work place changes have ushered in an era of best practice.

"We look forward to getting on with the job. We have already seen travellers respond favourably to an improved customer focused approach from the workforce and it's an area where further gains can be made. 

"The Union looks forward to working with the Government and Sydney Ferries management to deliver improved service and better outcomes and to undertake the "significant restructure" being contemplated by the Minister in 2010", said Mr Crumlin. 

Premier Kristina Keneally announced today that Sydney Ferries would remain in public hands - a decision welcomed by the Maritime Union and harbour residents.

Ms Keneally said the decision had been made after consultation with the community revealed a strong desire for the government to retain control of the service.

"The simple fact was an overwhelming sentiment from the community that ferries should remain a public service and in public hands," she told reporters. 

Unions NSW applauded the decision by the NSW Government to keep Sydney Ferries in public hands and believes that the government has made a sensible decision. The community has spoken and the government has listened. This is the right decision for the people of NSW - it's a win for commuters and the community at large. Those that have conducted the community campaign to keep the iconic Sydney Ferries in public hands should be congratulated.

The decision comes after the long running Walker Commission hearings, submissions and lobbying by both private and public sectors for and against privatisation.

In 2007, Brett Walker SC recommended Sydney Ferries be run by the private sector, but the union has campaigned strongly against the recommendation with strong public support.

Predictably the decision has led to howls of outrage from the private sector who had tendored to take over the running of the service.

Transport company Veolia and TransdevTSL both competed against Sydney Ferries Corporation for the service contract.

The NSW Government’s decision to continue public management of Sydney Ferries was 'a missed opportunity for much needed reform of a service that has a track record of mediocrity' according to the Sydney Business Chamber.