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Sydney train strikes: Transport union and government agree to end train strikes

Major breakthrough in long-running Sydney rail dispute that has caused months of train chaos

  • An amendment agreement has brought an end to Sydney’s train and bus disruptions
  • The union and government are at the end of a fleet of Korean-built trains
  • The union wanted $1 billion in security tweaks to improve monitoring of the platform
  • Both reached an agreement with the union on Friday to cancel further action

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The NSW government has finally struck a deal with the railway union to retrofit a fleet of trains after months of bitter negotiations and industrial action.

“Today we put the people of Sydney first,” Prime Minister Dominic Perrottet said in a joint statement released late Friday with Finance Minister Damien Tudehope and Transport Secretary David Elliott.

The parties disagreed over whether to make safety adjustments to a multibillion-dollar Korean-built fleet of intercity trains, which have been in storage since 2019.

The government reached the deal with the union on Friday after months of stymied talks and allegations of bad faith from both sides.

The train strikes in Sydney have come to an end and the government and transport union reached an agreement on Friday (pictured, Sydney commuters)

In a letter to its members on Friday evening, the Rail, Tram and Bus Union praised its members for their ‘unity’ and ‘commitment’ and stated that the government should have made a number of concessions.

Modifications to the trains allow guards to monitor platforms on approach and departure, increasing safety. The government had argued they were unnecessary and would cost up to $1 billion.

“Millions of rail passengers in Sydney and NSW will now be able to catch a train without being unfairly affected by union disruption, following an agreement between the NSW government and the Combined Rail Unions,” the prime minister and ministers said.

“For too long schoolchildren, people going to work and small businesses have had their lives and businesses turned upside down by industrial action by the railway unions.”

RTBU State Secretary Alex Claassens confirmed to AAP that the deal had been completed.

“We knew that eventually common sense would prevail and that the government would come to the table with a commitment to provide the safe trains and fair business deal that commuters and workers deserve,” he said.

Transport Secretary David Elliott (above) announced in a joint statement on Friday the end of the strikes after months of union negotiations over a fleet of Korean-built trains

Transport Secretary David Elliott (above) announced in a joint statement on Friday the end of the strikes after months of union negotiations over a fleet of Korean-built trains

Transport Secretary David Elliott (above) announced in a joint statement on Friday the end of the strikes after months of union negotiations over a fleet of Korean-built trains

“This victory for workers means that the planned union action for next week is not necessary.”

The deal was signed after Sydney commuters enjoyed a week of free transport, offered by the government to stave off planned industrial action, which would have reduced the network’s capacity by up to a third.

The government and union then entered into mediation throughout the week to resolve the long-running dispute.

Labor welcomed the resolution, saying ‘common sense has finally prevailed’, but said it should not have taken so long.

“There are serious questions as to why the government has not signed an act on the future of the new intercity fleet until today,” said transport spokeswoman Jo Haylen.

The union disruption was to demand $1 billion safety adjustments for improved platform surveillance by trains approaching and departing (pictured, Sydney commuters)

The union disruption was to demand $1 billion safety adjustments for improved platform surveillance by trains approaching and departing (pictured, Sydney commuters)

The union disruption was to demand $1 billion safety adjustments for improved platform surveillance by trains approaching and departing (pictured, Sydney commuters)

What remains to be ironed out are the details of the railway union’s new company deal after the current one expired last year.

Both parties have agreed that these details may be independently reviewed by the Fair Work Commission.

“We are not at the finish line yet, but our unity and commitment have forced the government to implement the security changes… and we have brought them to the point where a fair agreement is within reach,” the RTBU wrote to its members on Friday .

The government said the Fair Work Commission process would result in a vote of the railway unions and an ongoing arbitration process as they resolved a number of outstanding issues.

“While these Fair Work Commission processes are ongoing, the Combined Rail Unions have agreed not to take industrial action,” the government said.

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