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RAIL unions have forced the State Government to abandon plans to axe more than 400 jobs from the CityRail network and to endorse a pay rise well above the 2.5 per cent cap imposed by the Premier, Morris Iemma, and his Treasurer, Michael Costa.
While the Rail, Tram and Bus Union yesterday agreed to call off its 24-hour strike planned for July 17, which would have caused havoc in the middle of World Youth Day celebrations, the Government has been forced to make humiliating concessions.
The dispute has also driven a wedge between Mr Iemma and his deputy, John Watkins, who is also Transport Minister and whom unions were last night hailing as a peacemaker.
The secretary of Unions NSW, John Robertson, yesterday referred repeatedly to the Deputy Premier's "positive and constructive" intervention in the dispute, comparing it with Mr Iemma's statement on Monday likening rail workers to terrorists...
...Under the agreement struck last night, the unions will abandon their industrial campaign and return to negotiations with RailCorp this morning. RailCorp will no longer pursue the abolition of 417 jobs, finding productivity savings elsewhere in the CityRail network.
While the union has been pursuing a 5 per cent wage increase, it is likely to settle for 4 per cent. A union spokeswoman said today's meeting would try to lock in a lasting agreement and not simply defer industrial action.
"The agreement acknowledges that there are funds above 2.5 per cent that will come from productivity increases," Mr Watkins said. "I believe that a 4 per cent outcome, if arrived at through negotiations, will satisfy the parties."
But Mr Watkins denied the union's threat to disrupt World Youth Day had forced the Government to retreat.
The Sydney Morning Herald
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