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The likelihood of Sydney commuters experiencing major delays to train services from Thursday has grown significantly after union bosses declared they were "still miles away" from resolution of a pay dispute.
Sydney Trains' top brass met union officials on Monday to discuss the terms of a new four-year enterprise agreement. The meeting was delayed for several hours after a new Waratah train hit a buffer stop at the end of the rail line at Richmond station in Sydney's north-west, injuring as many as 16 people shortly before 10am.
Rail Tram and Bus Union state secretary Alex Claassens said the talks about the terms of a new enterprise agreement were likely to go late into Monday evening as the two sides "are still miles away" from reaching any deal.
"We are still trying to work through the issues. And we are still not talking money until the end," he said.
The rail unions have been seeking an annual pay rise of 6 per cent a year over the four-year term of a new enterprise agreement covering about 9000 workers.
That is significantly higher than the latest offer from Sydney Trains, which is understood to largely stick to the state government's cap on public sector wages of 2.5 per cent per annum.
Both the unions and the state government have declined to reveal the specifics of what has been put on the table by Sydney Trains.
A 24-hour strike next Monday is expected to cripple the city's rail network, but an indefinite ban on overtime work from this Thursday could also cause major disruptions to Sydney Trains services. That is because the introduction of a new train timetable in late November means the network relies heavily on staff doing overtime.
Mr Claassens also warned he could not call the strike off until his members had been consulted on the offer by management.
While a ballot of members did not need to be held to call off the 24-hour strike on Monday, Mr Claassens said "we still need input from our members".
"I am not going to be able to make a call on anything unless it is a very good offer, and one I know that my members will accept. Members will not take 2.5 per cent – I can guarantee that," he told the Herald.
Earlier on Monday, Transport Minister Andrew Constance said his expectation was "that we land in a good place in so far as cancelling all industrial action including the strike planned for next Monday".
Sydney Trains chief executive Howard Collins has warned that the ban on rostered or unplanned overtime "will have an impact on the network" and result in train cancellations.
This article first appeared on www.smh.com.au
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