New South Wales government walks away from rail union talks over safety issue

Photo by Damian Shaw/NewsWire: The dispute is over the safety of the New Intercity Fleet trains

Contributed from New South Wales

After 5 weeks, talks between the NSW government and the Rail Tram and Bus Union have broken down. They ended abruptly, after the after the state’s employee relations minister, Damien Tudehope, threatened at a press conference yesterday. He threatened termination the existing enterprise agreement and walked away from further talks.

Rail workers are being locked out of their jobs.

Tudehope was joined by that treasurer Matt Keen, who blasted the union for bull, spin, and misrepresentation. He accused the union of trying to wreck the train service for Sydney commuters.

Transport Minister, David Elliott, who had been involved in the talks has been side lined by his own government. It is understood that headway towards an agreement was being made. This has prompted the accusation of premier Dominic Perrottet government’s manufacturing a stunt for political point scoring and to help Scott Morrison in the federal election.

David Elliot then turned around and blasted the union for bull, spin, and misrepresentation.

Tudehope accused the union of holding up the rollout of New Intercity Fleet trains costing $2 billion. The union says that they are unsafe because guards are unable to see the platforms and ensure the safety of those who are on them.

Image from 7 News: Alex Claassens the NSW Secretary of the Tram Tram and Bus union

The argument is around the fact that the trains are designed to rely on CCTV, which is argued to be far less safe than the use of guards.

Sensing that this is a set up to pressure the union into calling an immediate strike, there will be lower-level industrial action instead, such as maintaining bans.

A strike would give Scott Morrison a much-needed diversion from the issues that are damaging his government’s re-election prospects. It would provide an opportunity to take the matter to the Fair Work Commission, which could also be used as a political ploy.

The New South Wales branch of the Liberal Party is divided over a preselection battle, where the national organisation intervened and overruled the state’s selected candidates. The division has deeper sources, sand this is the state where more independents are challenging the government than in any other.

Meanwhile, the trains in dispute are not rolling.

Dissatisfaction among train crews is still boiling. The dispute will still be there after the federal election, where either the talks have resumed, or the chances of an escalation increased.

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