Hearing on NSW train dispute pushed back

·2-min read

The protracted dispute between the NSW government and rail workers is no closer to being resolved after coming before the industrial umpire.

Unions took government transport agencies to the Fair Work Commission on Tuesday, seeking an urgent hearing after the government threatened to terminate the existing enterprise agreement.

The matter was adjourned until Friday, with a second hearing scheduled for next Wednesday.

Lawyers for the government sought the adjournment, having been unable to gather all the necessary material.

The adjournment was opposed by the unions, but "reluctantly" granted by FWC deputy president Bryce Cross.

The unions have indicated support for the FWC stepping in as a conciliator.

"If there is an indication from all parties ... it can be arranged very quickly," Mr Cross said.

"I would encourage that course," he said.

Multiple unions have been negotiating with the government for months over a new enterprise agreement for rail workers after the current one expired in May last year.

The Rail, Tram and Bus Union also wants changes to a Korean-built fleet of new intercity trains it argues is not yet safe to operate on the NSW rail network.

Modifying the trains to allow guards to monitor platforms on approach and departure would improve safety, the union says, while also saving about 450 jobs.

The union took industrial action throughout August with targeted strikes, station gates left open, bans on fines and crew refusing to operate foreign-built trains that comprise most of the network.

The government train agencies have agreed not to proceed with a vote on the new enterprise agreement or apply to terminate the current one until the FWC matter is decided.

The RTBU defended its action again on Tuesday, following an email sent to members last week was reported in the Daily Telegraph.

"This government does not deserve a moment of peace between now and the next election. Enough is enough," the union email reportedly said.

The email was sent on Wednesday, after Premier Dominic Perrottet announced negotiations with the unions were over.

Treasurer Matt Kean seized on the email which he said "unmasked" the unions' motivation.

"I thought they said it was about safety - clearly it's not," he told Sydney radio 2GB.

"This union strategy makes it clear they are not out to help the public," he said.

The RTBU said accusations the disputes were motivated by the March election were "misinformation", noting it had been seeking changes to the Korean-built fleet since 2016.

"We will continue to fight, no matter who is in government, until we are confident the safety of commuters will not be put at risk by the fleet," the union said in a statement.

"The idea that refusing to operate trains that we know put the lives of our children and other commuters at risk could ever be considered a political play is simply ridiculous."