Rail strike threatens pope's Sydney visit
The 200,000 Catholic pilgrims hoping for a glimpse of Pope Benedict XVI when he makes his grand entrance next week on Sydney Harbour may find themselves stranded far from the foreshore by a 24-hour rail strike, organizers said Tuesday, dpa reported.
Rail unions after more pay have called a strike for Super Thursday, when Pope Benedict XVI arrives in Australia's biggest city for the opening mass of the World Youth Day celebrations.
New South Wales Premier Morris Iemma admitted that chaos was on the cards but pledged not to bow to union demands.
"We won't be blackmailed through this industrial terror," Iemma said.
RailCorp chief executive Rob Mason said that staff had planned for 1.4 million extra passenger train journeys on Thursday. "Clearly we have to do the contingency planning of having no trains," Mason said.
The rail union has the upper hand in its dispute with the government because the bus fleet has been contracted to carry pilgrims to train stations. Road closures mean buses can't get into the city.
Union boss Nick Lewocki was apologetic for raining on the pope's parade. "But we ask the commuters to understand you can't have frontline public sector essential workers being told they need to take a pay cut and a cut in services," Lewocki said.