Sydney trains industrial action slated for Thursday; commuters brace for disruptions

Claassens conceded that the four-hour stoppage would cause disruptions during the morning peak, although the union had chosen the early hours for the action to lessen the impact on commuters. “There is always going to be a flow-on impact [on services]. There will be some gnarly things, no doubt,” he said.

The NSW government suffered an embarrassing defeat two weeks ago in its efforts to stop unions taking industrial action across Sydney’s rail network.

The Fair Work Commission dismissed the government’s bid to suspend industrial action for 10 weeks, rejecting “inexplicable” claims that it was harming the state’s economy.

One of the intercity trains at the centre of the stand-off between rail unions and the NSW government.

One of the intercity trains at the centre of the stand-off between rail unions and the NSW government.Credit:Tom Rabe

Since the Fair Work decision, the two sides have been unable to reach a breakthrough despite union leaders meeting Tudehope and Ward, and holding separate talks with the chief executives of Sydney Trains and NSW Trains.

The rail union wants the government to sign a deed guaranteeing that it will modify the new intercity train fleet at a cost of $264 million to address safety concerns, before completing negotiations over a new pay deal. However, the government wants both the train fleet modifications and a new enterprise agreement completed together.


The union argues that the cost of modifying the trains risks coming at the expense of workers’ wages and conditions if the two issues are dealt with together.

However, Tudehope and Ward argue in their letter that there “is no trade-off” between wages and the government’s concession on modification for the new intercity fleet.

“Given the substantial cost of the RTBU’s demands regarding modifications to the [intercity fleet], there is no conceivable way these could be offset by reducing workers’ pay and the suggestion that this has occurred is baseless,” the ministers wrote in their letter on Monday night.

The new intercity fleet was meant to enter service in 2019 but remains mothballed on the state’s Central Coast because rail workers refuse to staff it due to safety concerns. The government has estimated the mothballed fleet is costing taxpayers $30 million a month.

The RTBU said rail workers were seeking annual pay rises of 3.5 per cent over three years. However, the government has argued that the union’s claims over pay and conditions would equate to 16.5 per cent in the first year.

The government has offered rail workers a one-off payment of $3185 and a 3 per cent wage rise in the first year, followed by 3.5 per cent and 2.5 per cent. It is line with the government’s wage offer to workers across the public sector.

In a separate statement, Ward said she had been “very clear” that the government’s focus was ensuring that the unions stopped disrupting the daily lives of commuters. “It is time for the unions to stop playing games and work constructively with the government to finalise the enterprise agreement,” she said.

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