Sydney, Be Prepared For Train Chaos Starting Tomorrow
NSW train commuters will still face disruptions on the rail network in the lead-up to Australia Day despite unions and management getting closer to striking a deal.
Members of the Rail, Tram and Bus Union are set to decide by lunchtime on Wednesday whether the offer proposed by Sydney Trains management is good enough to cancel an indefinite ban on overtime on Thursday and a 24-hour strike on Monday over pay and conditions.
Sydney Train Strike: Saturday timetable to be introduced from Thursday."We are now going to introduce a level of service on Thursday that is significantly less than what we would do on a weekday." @RTBUnion says overtime ban is indefinite. 24 hour strike on Monday. #sydneytrains pic.twitter.com/B2dqz6VG8M— 7 News Sydney (@7NewsSydney) January 23, 2018
RTBU NSW secretary Alex Claassens said progress had been made after a marathon 10-hour meeting with Sydney and NSW Trains bosses on Monday spilled into Tuesday.
"Negotiations have gone a long way to addressing our concerns and those protections we have been looking for," he told reporters in Sydney on Tuesday.
"Until I hear from my members I am not going to comment whether I think it's a good deal or not."
The offer has come too late to stave off major disruptions on Thursday, with NSW Transport Minister Andrew Constance warning commuters trains will operate on a Saturday timetable, cutting services across the state.
He has urged commuters to stay home and avoid travel during peak hours.
"It's disappointing we are at this point, I didn't want to press this button now," he told reporters in Sydney on Tuesday.
"It is imperative the union please call off this strike because we are now at crunch point."
Australia Day on Friday will operate under a similar timetable, with Mr Constance hopeful the industrial action will be called off overnight so management can plan to restore as many services as possible in the lead-up to the day.
"There are 9500 employees that are going to sweat on this agreement, but more importantly there are 1.3 million customers of ours who are sweating on having this strike called off," he said.
The union was pushing for a six per cent pay rise and improved conditions, with members now considering a 2.75 per cent pay rise as part of a package which includes free bus travel for all rail workers and a one-off $1000 payment to each employee.
Sydney Trains chief executive Howard Collins said it was a "good deal" that would allow management and employees to focus on customer service again.
"What got us over the line was the whole dialogue and understanding of the package," he told reporters in Sydney on Tuesday.
"There was a very constructive atmosphere when we left (the meeting) and that will continue."
NSW opposition leader Luke Foley said the disruptions predicted for Thursday and Friday were concerning as it proved the train network relied on employees working overtime.
"This confirms the system is running on empty, that the state government can only run a train network on the goodwill of drivers," Mr Foley said in a statement on Tuesday.
Earlier, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said the government was prepared to take legal action if the strike couldn't be averted through negotiations.