NSW government and railway union sign deal paving way for end to railway strikes

After years of labor disputes, the railway union and the NSW government have signed a deal indicating that “this dispute has been resolved”.

At the end of a mammoth seven-hour meeting, the government agreed to a demand from the Rail, Tram and Bus Union (RTBU) that will see the New Intercity Fleet (NIF) undergo up to $300 million dollars in repairs.

The union has long been concerned that the Korean-made trains are unsafe and prevent guards from checking that the platforms are clear – a claim the government has denied.

Transport Secretary David Elliott said the signed act is a victory for all parties.

“Sydney commuters are the big winners. I am confident that this dispute will be resolved,” he said.

“The union clearly got what it wanted, and so did the government. That’s what mediation arbitration is all about.”

a man standing next to another man talking to the media outside
Transport Minister David Elliott says the union agreement is a victory for Sydney commuters. (ABC news)

Since June, the RTBU had directed its members to engage in a range of disruptive practices, including denying foreign-produced personnel, banning hazardous waste clean-up, and reducing the speed limit of “slow-running” trains “periods.

The union had planned to stage a network-wide strike this Friday, but RTBU NSW Secretary Alex Claassens said that action is no longer going ahead.

“We actually have a signature on a deed… so that’s a huge step forward for us,” he said.

“We’ve always said we want new trains on our system, but they had to be safe trains.

“The Government and Transport for New South Wales agree with us. They’re going to fix that train and we’ll get a brand new train out of our system once they’ve made those changes.”

a man standing outside with other men talking to the media
Union secretary Alex Claassens says that there is still more work to be done on the company agreement.(ABC news)

Although Mr Elliott referred to the development as a resolution, the union was careful with their language, saying “there is still a little way to go with the company agreement”.

“But we are quite comforted by the fact that they gave us a lot of guarantees today,” said Claassens.

Both sides said a small number of items will have to go to arbitration in the Fair Work Commission which will start in early December.

The final solution will come once members of the railway union sign the bargaining agreement for companies.

Friday marks the last day of fare-free travel in the government’s previous attempts to stave off union action.

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