Why are Sydney train workers still on strike and is an end in sight?

Sydney commuters are facing more disrupted rail services as a result of an industrial dispute over new trains

Sydney commuters are experiencing another day of disrupted train services with more industrial action being taken by the rail union on Thursday.

The planned action went ahead after a last-minute bid to stop it by the state government failed.

We’ve taken a look at how we got here and where to next.


So, what’s happening?

The Rail, Tram and Bus Union (RTBU) is targeting Redfern and the City Circle line with industrial action on Thursday. It includes major stations like Central, Town Hall and Wynyard.

Officially running from 10am to 4pm, the action will see services reduced to a weekend schedule, which is likely to affect the broader network throughout the day.

The action is the second this week, part of a long-running dispute dating back two years which has seen a series of industrial actions take place, beginning in September of 2021.

Why are rail workers still striking?

The long-running standoff between the RTBU and the government is about a new Korean-built fleet of intercity trains – not yet in service – that the union says is unsafe and needs to be modified.

The trains were designed to be operated by drivers who can monitor the platform with CCTV – a feature the union claims is a risk because drivers would not be able to see if someone had fallen between the train and the platform.

In June, the government announced it was willing to modify the trains to accommodate the union’s wishes, but demanded a new enterprise agreement with rail workers be agreed to at the same time.

The union has said the decisions should be staged.

Where are negotiations at?

After months of back and forth, the government on Wednesday afternoon sent a new deed to the union and agreed to make changes to get the mothballed fleet on the tracks.

“We call on the union today to execute that document and to call off the industrial activity, which has inconvenienced the people and commuters of this state,” the NSW employee relations minister, Damien Tudehope, said on Wednesday.

However, the union said it would take at least 48 hours to review the new deal and it was disingenuous of the government to expect otherwise.

Speaking at a CBD train station on Thursday morning, the RTBU’s secretary, Alex Claassens, expressed disappointment in the way Tudehope conducted himself.

“Ten minutes before he does his press conference, he sends me the deed and then has the hide to stand up there and say we should immediately cancel our industrial action. That was never going to happen.”

So, is there any end to this in sight?

Yes … maybe. The union and the government met on Thursday morning to discuss the deed and next steps.

Claassens has said the new agreement looked “doable” and he could see a situation where he would call off further action and announce a deal had been struck as early as tomorrow, if members agreed.

“I’m either probably going to come out sometime on Friday and have some good news around the deed, or alternatively I’ll be out there on Monday morning doing a usual press conference and letting people know that Wednesday’s [planned action is] happening,” he said.

“Hopefully, we can all get on with life.”


Tamsin Rose

The GuardianTramp

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