NSW government loses bid to stop rail union’s industrial action

Sydney is set for more train delays on Wednesday after the New South Wales government lost its case to suspend planned industrial action by the state’s rail union.

The government launched a case in the Fair Work Commission on Monday seeking orders to block the fresh round of industrial action by the Rail, Tram and Bus Union (RTBU).

The industrial action, planned for Wednesday and Friday, will see bans on operating some overseas-built trains. The government had argued the action would severely hamper the state’s rail network and cost the state’s economy millions of dollars.

In interim orders handed down on Tuesday afternoon, the commission sided with the union, allowing the action to go ahead.

The RTBU’s secretary, Alex Claassens, welcomed the decision, but said the union had also agreed to “ensure additional services would be available this week to assist during the current weather conditions”.

Claassens said commuters would be “unlikely to notice any impact at all” from the reduced action.

“Throughout this whole dispute, we’ve always been as fair and reasonable as possible while still making it very clear to management and the NSW government that we are serious about fighting for the safety railway commuters and workers deserve,” Claassens said in a statement.

“We never want to inconvenience commuters. This whole dispute is to ensure commuters get the safe trains they deserve. However, the NSW government’s continued political game playing means that we’ve been left with no choice.”

The action will include a ban on transit officers issuing fines and reduce the number of rail services by 30% to 40% on Wednesday and Friday.

An additional 50 trains had been brought online during negotiations, to bring Wednesday’s services up to 60%, Transport for NSW’s chief operations officer, Howard Collins, said.

The state’s metropolitan roads minister, Natalie Ward, called the decision a victory for the government, saying the filing of action in the commission caused the union to lift a number of its industrial bans.

“We’ve seen quite a win in capacity for getting more trains back on the tracks,” she said.

“That’s why the NSW government took this action because we want those trains back on the tracks.

“We want people to be able to get across our network.”

On Monday the state premier, Dominic Perrottet, accused the union of prolonging the dispute for political reasons, saying the union had “shown a lack of good faith”.

“We’ll be seeking orders to stop industrial action,” Perrottet said.

“The actions of the RTBU are incredibly disappointing. This has gone on for years. We have worked in good faith, we have been fair and reasonable in our response from the NSW government to resolve these issues.”

In documents filed in the Fair Work Commission on Monday afternoon, the state’s crown solicitor argued the actions would increase the cost of the new Metro City and Southwest rail line by $246m because work planned for the school holidays could not be undertaken.

The comes after the government last week announced, after a years-long fight with the union, it would concede to its demands for modifications to its intercity train fleet worth about $260m.

The union has so far refused to end the dispute, demanding the government agree to put its concessions in writing, and saying it has yet to receive any confirmation from the government that the changes to the intercity fleet wouldn’t come at the expense of other conditions.

– with AAP

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