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The rollout of Sydney’s new multibillion-dollar fleet of intercity trains could be delayed after the rail union was handed a veto power over NSW government plans to change guards’ role on the services.
In a unanimous decision on Tuesday, three industrial commissioners ruled the government needed the union or workers’ agreement if it wanted to have “customer service guards” rather than regular guards on its new fleet under the rail enterprise agreement.
A prototype of the new intercity trains, which do not have a firm date to enter service.CREDIT:JANIE BARRETT
The Rail, Tram and Bus Union is at odds with the government over the planned role because drivers would monitor boarding via the trains’ new CCTV technology rather than guards checking physically, which the union argues poses a safety problem.
Starting in 2018 the RTBU filed a series of challenges in the Fair Work Commission over the government’s plans for its fleet of 55 new trains that will travel from Sydney to destinations including Wollongong and Newcastle. The union initially lost last year but that decision was reversed on Tuesday after an appeal.
RTBU NSW secretary Alex Claassens believes the government cannot introduce the new trains, which cost $2.4 billion and are made in South Korea, without coming to a deal with the union after the ruling.
“No, we don’t think they can,” Mr Claassens said. “Our position would be they can’t because they’ve got to reach some agreement with us.”
“This decision quite clearly says we were right and they were wrong... so it’s back to the negotiating table for them.”
A spokesman for NSW TrainLink, which will operate the intercity trains, said they had the latest safety technology, which includes doors that do not close if they are obstructed, and would be more comfortable and accessible for passengers.
“We note the decision of the Fair Work Commission however we do not believe that this will delay the introduction of the new trains, which are currently undergoing testing on the network,” the spokesman said.
TrainLink has not set a date for the introduction of the new fleet trains, the first of which were originally scheduled to go into service in the middle of last year. Mr Claassens wants them modified to allow the guard to better monitor boarding.
The Fair Work Commission’s ruling backing the union hinged on a clause in the train workers’ enterprise agreement, which requires “in-principle” agreement between the union and government before changes to train crewing are allowed.
That agreement will reach its nominal expiry in May this year but the government has offered to extend it for six months with a 0.3 per cent pay rise in a move the union rejected. It will continue while the sides talk.
The government could also try to change the enterprise agreement, which would also require the workers’ approval or attempt a rarely-used process to terminate agreements once it formally expires.
This article first appeared on www.smh.com.au
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