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Melb commuters soaked as tram staff strike

Rain-soaked commuters had to trudge around Melbourne’s CBD during a four-hour tram strike because replacement buses were too hard to find.

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Tram workers shut down the network from 10am to 2pm on Thursday over a continuing pay dispute with Yarra Trams.

Despite promises of replacement buses being made available to commuters, they were hard to find, while the extra taxis on the road struggled to keep up with demand.

Even those who drove into the CBD were affected as the morning’s peak lasted an extra hour and a half.

Melbourne’s public transport woes are set to continue with a train strike planned for next week.

Those unaware of Thursday’s strike continued to line up at tram stops around the city, including outside the Queen Victoria Market.

Panayiota, from Brunswick, waited over an hour for a replacement bus service that never came.

Anna, also from Brunswick, took an optimistic approach to the strike saying it reminded her how nice it was to walk to work – rain, hail or shine.

As rain fell heavily across the city, hundreds of Yarra Trams staff piled into Melbourne’s Trades Hall for stop-work meetings during the strike.

The high-vis-clad crowd seemed jovial, holding banners high and waving union flags while waiting for an update from the Rail, Tram and Bus Union about the state of enterprise agreement negotiations with Yarra Trams.

“It’s been a long time since we’ve had a stoppage here in Melbourne – 1997 was the last time but we’ve been left with no option,” RTBU divisional secretary Phil Altieri told the crowd.

“We’d be happy to settle for a little bit less in terms of money, but not on our conditions.”

Yarra Trams apologised for the “unnecessary” delays.

“We did everything we could to keep passengers informed and keep Melbourne moving,” a statement said.

The strike was good news for Melbourne’s taxis and ride-sharing service Uber who both noticed an increase in passengers.

“Business is booming,” 13 CABS spokesman Simon Purssey told AAP.

Premier Daniel Andrews slammed the union for letting down hundreds of thousands of commuters.

“There is no need for industrial action … we should be sitting down talking and that’s what is scheduled for tomorrow, for heaven’s sake,” Mr Andrews said.

Opposition leader Matthew Guy said a resolution needed to reached quickly.

“Get them in a room, sit them down, solve the dispute and don’t sell out Victorian taxpayers by simply being a sop to the union movement,” Mr Guy said.