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NSW government, rail union sign a deal paving the way for an end to rail strikes

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After years of industrial disputes, the rail union and the NSW government have signed a deal that signals “this dispute is resolved”.

At the end of a mammoth seven-hour meeting, the government agreed to a Rail, Tram, and Bus Union (RTBU) demand, which will see the New Intercity Fleet (NIF) undergo up to $300 million dollars of repairs.

The union has long been concerned that the Korean-made trains are unsafe and prevent guards from checking that platforms are clear — a claim the government has denied.

Transport Minister David Elliott said the signed deed is a win for all parties.

“The commuters of Sydney are the big winners. I’m very confident that this dispute is being resolved,” he said.

“The union has got what it wanted obviously and so has the government. That’s what conciliation arbitration is all about.”

The Transport Minister David Elliott says the agreement reached with the union is a win for Sydney commuters. (ABC News)

Since June, the RTBU had directed its members to engage in a range of disruptive practices, including refusing to staff trains manufactured overseas, banning the cleaning of hazardous waste and reducing the maximum speed of trains with “go slow” periods.

The union had planned to run a network-wide stoppage next Friday, but RTBU NSW secretary Alex Claassens said this action will no longer go ahead.

“We’ve actually got a signature on a deed… so that’s a massive step forward for us,” he said.

“We’ve always said we want new trains on our system, but they needed to be safe trains.

“The government and Transport for New South Wales have agreed with us. They’re going to fix that train and we’re going to have a brand new train out of our system as soon as they make those modifications.”

a man standing outdoors with other men talking to the media
Union secretary Alex Claassens says the enterprise bargaining agreement still needs more work.(ABC News)

While Mr Elliott referred to the development as a resolution, the union was cautious with their language saying “there’s a little bit of a way to go on the enterprise agreement”.

“But we are quite comforted by the fact that they gave us a whole bunch of guarantees today,” Mr Claassens said.

Both parties said a small number of items will need to go to arbitration in the Fair Work Commission due to begin in early December.

The final resolution will come once the rail union members endorse the enterprise bargaining agreement.

Friday marks the final day of fare-free travel in earlier attempts by the government to stave off industrial action.

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