Minister Meets Union Over NSW Train Strike

Unions and the state government have held a “conciliatory” meeting and will work through the weekend to resolve their issues before it’s too late to stop a planned 24-hour strike by NSW rail workers.

More than 9000 Sydney train workers are due to strike on Monday, January 29, as their union pushes for a six per cent pay rise and improved working conditions.

The government is holding firm on a 2.5 per cent wage increase.

NSW Transport Minister Andrew Constance, who earlier in the week described the strike as a “silly stunt,” met with union officials on Friday morning in an attempt to come to an agreement.

The meeting was described as “conciliatory” by the Rail Tram and Bus Union’s NSW secretary Alex Claassens.

“He (Mr Constance) came to the table with a willingness to actually have a conversation … and I think he’s committed to trying to resolve this mess,” he told reporters in Sydney on Friday.

“There are still about six or seven really key issues for us, they’ve given us a commitment they are going to work on that all over the weekend.”

Mr Claassens is hopeful when both sides meet again at 10am on Monday they will agree on a “package” to resolve the dispute – but warned at this stage the strike would still go ahead.

“As far as the RTBU is concerned the actions are still in play, we will still commence our overtime ban on Thursday and we still have the strike action on the following Monday and it will need a fairly good package for us to be able to withdraw that action,” he said.

“Nobody wants the action really, but we’ve all got to do what we’ve got to do to make sure that the respect of the workers out there is maintained and we all get a reasonable payoff.”

Mr Claassens said calling off planned industrial action was a complex process.

Railway workers on Friday began the first phase of protected industrial action, wearing their union shirts and badges to work.

Mr Constance previously warned the strike would “shut down the city”.

Some Sydney businesses have already organised contingency plans, telling employees to work from home on the day of the strike.

Previous meetings between Sydney Trains management and transport unions were described as “constructive” by both sides on Thursday.

“We probably had the most movement we’ve had in a couple of months today, so everyone is working hard to get it resolved,” Unions NSW secretary Mark Morey told AAP after the meeting.