los Nueva Gales del Sur government will launch legal action against the rail worker’s union in a bid to end industrial action that has crippled the state’s public transport network, marking the latest escalation in its ongoing battle with public sector unions.
On Monday the premier, Dominic Perrottet, said his government would file action against the Rail, Tram and Bus Union (RTBU) in the Industrial Relations Commission seeking to block a fresh round of industrial action planned for this week.
It 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.
On Friday the RTBU secretary Alex Claassens visited the head office of the state’s rail department, Transport for NSW, with a copy of a deed and a pen demanding that the agreement be signed.
But ahead of a meeting with Claassens this week, Perrottet accused the union of prolonging the dispute for political reasons, saying the RTBU had “shown a lack of good faith”.
“We’ll be seeking orders to stop industrial action," él dijo.
“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.
“We have done everything we can, to the point where we agreed last week, on the basis of numerous discussions that have taken place, to have modifications take place on the best trains you could have anywhere in the world.
“We made that concession because I want to make sure those trains are on the track as quickly as possible. The response from the RTBU in my view is purely political to continue industrial action particularly this week as well when we know there are severe weather warnings right across our state.”
The decision to take the RTBU to the state’s industrial relations commission comes as the union plans more industrial action on Wednesday and Friday.
Train services were also severely disrupted last week amid the industrial dispute.
It would be the second time the government and the RTBU have found themselves in a court battle in six months, after the state’s rail network was spectacularly shut down in February after negotiations between the two parties broke down after a late night hearing.
The union said on Monday morning that it had yet to receive notice of a hearing with the IRC. It had instructed train drivers to sound their whistles across the network in anticipation of escalating industrial action later in the week.
“Train whistles stopped sounding about five years ago as a result of noise complaints, but we’re bringing them back today as part of ongoing protected industrial action,” Claassens said.
“It’s outrageous that we’re being forced to take action in order to get the NSW government to deliver on what should be a basic responsibility of government – providing a safe railway and fair working conditions for its workforce.”