The NSW government says it will agree to quickly start work on modifying new intercity trains at the centre of a long-running dispute if rail unions ditch industrial action during negotiations over a new pay deal.
In an attempt to break a deadlock, Employee Relations Minister Damien Tudehope told rail unions late on Sunday that he would drop a requirement for alterations to the multibillion-dollar intercity fleet to be contingent on the industrial umpire approving a new enterprise agreement.
However, Tudehope said the offer was conditional upon the six rail unions agreeing to drop protected industrial action before a new enterprise agreement covering thousands of rail workers was approved by Fair Work.
“This offer is made by the government … as an attempt to bring to an end the ongoing dispute,” he wrote in the letter to union leaders on Sunday.
The latest offer may be too late to avoid severe disruptions to Sydney’s train network on Wednesday from planned industrial action.
The rail union has warned that it will need 48 hours to canvass delegates about the final wording of a deed guaranteeing modifications to the state’s new intercity train fleet, while 48 hours’ notice is usually required for the railway timetable to be changed.
Rail workers plan to refuse to operate foreign-built trains on Wednesday as part of their industrial actions. If it goes ahead, it will result in delays, cancellations and overcrowded carriages as foreign-built trains make up about three-quarters of the state’s rail fleet.
A day-long meeting between the six unions and senior government officials about a new enterprise agreement has been brought forward to Monday. Rail Tram and Bus Union leaders and transport officials will also discuss plans for train services on Wednesday, which are likely to run to significantly reduced frequencies similar to a weekend timetable.
Rail Tram and Bus Union secretary Alex Claassens said the minister’s latest offer would be discussed at the day-long meeting on Monday.