1990 Tram Strike

tramstrike.jpgIf you thought taxi drivers blocking Flinders & Swanston street was bad, imagine 250 trams parked on all of the major city routes along with public buses and picketers blocking all tram transportation. That’s what happened on January 2, 1990 and continued on for a month.

The year was 1989, the Cain government was suffering a severe overspending problem and was desperately seeking to cut money from anywhere it could. In August of that year, they revealed plans to convert to a scratch ticketing system on buses, trains and trams which would see 500 tram conductor jobs cut. Trams would be converted into a “driver only” mode and ticketing would be done via a ticketing system and security camera. Tickets were also able to be bought at convenience stores. Basically, the system that we have now.

As you would expect, conductors were not happy and with the support of the union staged various stop workages, refusals to collect fares, running trams without government’s approval, taking over of depots and finally the the straw that broke the camel’s back, parking 250 trams throughout the city. At this point, the government decided to cut off the power to the trams. Workers staged a 24-hour a day picket, setting up makeshift kitchens in tram depots. After a month of this madness, the government conceded on February 2 and although they moved forward to implement “driver only” trams, the conductors all kept their jobs.

Conductors were in the job until around 1998, when all trams were fitted with automatic ticketing machines.

“The reduction in numbers and eventual elimination of conductors saw a rise in assaults, robberies, graffiti and vandalism on trams staffed only by drivers. One hundred roving conductors were employed on Victorian trams in 2000 in an effort to combat these problems. In 1989, the Cain government believed that replacing conductors with scratch tickets would save $24 million annually. With automated ticket machines installed on trams, operators estimate that $50 million is lost each year through fare evasion.”

And where are we now? We are one year behind schedule on the new Myki system which won’t be fully implemented until 2010 and out of pocket $500 million dollars. Those those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it.

Links:

Wikipedia: Myki

History Cooperative: The end of the line: an examination of the 1990 Victorian
tram dispute

Thanks to the avid cyclist Strider

Picture by James Popple

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