Strike threat for WYD

Railway workers are threatening a strike on the day Pope Benedict arrives in Sydney for WYD.

The Sydney Morning Herald reports the strike threatens to clog Sydney roads, prevent many of the 200,000 pilgrims from seeing the pope and force hundreds of thousands of people to miss work.

Premier, Morris Iemma, insisted yesterday he would not bow to "industrial terror" as the transport union pressed its claim for a 5 percent pay rise by calling a strike for Thursday week, the busiest day of the Catholic celebrations when the Pope will visit the centre of Sydney.

While the industrial court could today order the union to defer the strike, RailCorp's acting chief executive, Rob Mason, said: "Clearly we have to do the contingency planning of having no trains."

However, transport experts say there is nothing the Government can do to make up the shortfall if the strike goes ahead. CityRail was planning for more than 700,000 people to ride the rail network on the Thursday, which means the Government would need 8,750 buses to replace the trains. That is 6,850 more buses than the entire State Transit fleet.

All of Sydney's 2,400 private buses - normally available for charter during school holidays - are already committed to World Youth Day or normal services.

"There is really no prospect of filling the gap with buses," said the former chief executive of the State Transit Authority, John Stott. "A whole load of people are not going to get to work that morning, and a lot of visitors are not going to get to the event."

Mr Iemma said: "The threat to embarrass the state on one of the most important days in our recent history will not cut ice with the Government. "

Last night, the office of the Transport Minister, John Watkins, was investigating whether it could invoke the Essential Services Act or even try to use the Howard government's Workplace Relations Act to quash the strike.

A World Youth Day spokesman said organisers were confident the Government would resolve the matter.

Mr Watkins said the Government would go to the Australian Industrial Relations Commission (AIRC) today in an attempt to resolve or defer strike action.

"Any threat to take industrial action ... is irresponsible, and in particular next week," Mr Watkins said.

"It will have a major negative impact on the people of Sydney, families going about their business as well as that for the many thousands of visitors who will be here for World Youth Day."

The RTBU said it was taking the action because the Government had failed to offer its members an acceptable pay increase. 

Angolans in Adelaide

Meanwhile, Adelaide Now reports that days after flying out of Africa, 50 Angolan pilgrims finally danced and sang their way into Adelaide today with a better understanding of Australian geography.

The group, which consisted of a Catholic bishop, five priests and 50 other pilgrims, arrived just after 5pm to begin their pre-World Youth Day celebrations in Adelaide, called Days in the Diocese.

World Youth Day organisers had initially feared the Angolans would be left stranded in Sydney after assuming Adelaide was an outer suburb.

Angolan Bishop Almeida Kanda and his group had paid $3,800 each to fly to Australia but had no further funds for flights to Adelaide and back.

Australia-wide donations raised the $20,000 needed to rescue the group, which was able to fly to Adelaide after only a short stopover in Sydney.

"It has been a long time travelling but we are finally here and very excited," spokesman Jose Silva Mohammed said.

Although tired, the group still managed to dance and sing for homestay families waiting for them in the arrivals lounge.

Brennan vs Pell

The ABC quotes Cardinal George Pell as describing ACU Professor Frank Brennan's criticism of WYD laws as "typically unhelpful" and a "complete beat up".

But Professor Brennan says the laws are "unworkable and "can't be made operable".

"The funeral event of Mr Packer at the Sydney Opera House, there was a protest and it was said that those protesters were breaching the law about annoyance and inconvenience," Fr Brennan said.

"How were the police called in? The police didn't make the decision themselves it was annoyance or inconvenience, the general manager of the Opera House made that decision. Now, what are we to expect here? They're going to be church officials making decisions about annoyance and inconvenience and asking police to come in? That would be very unseemly," he told the ABC.


Pilgrims progress ends in dance of relief (Adelaide Now, 8/7/08)

Stations of the very cross (Sydney Morning Herald, 8/7/08)

Premier rejects Pope strike 'terror tactics' (, 7/7/08)

Pope-approved megastore opens its doors(Ninemsn, 7/7/08)

New WYD laws cause Catholic Church infighting


World Youth Day 2008


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