NSW rail workers ordered to suspend strike
Commuters have been temporarily spared chaos after the industrial umpire ordered next week's NSW train strike be put on ice because it could have endangered Sydneysiders.
The Fair Work Commission on Thursday ordered rail workers to suspend their planned 24-hour strike on Monday and an indefinite ban on overtime work for six weeks.
Senior deputy president Jonathan Hamberger said the industrial action over a pay dispute threatened to "endanger the welfare" of a lot of people in Sydney and surrounding areas who rely on train services to get to work, attend school or go about their business.
"As well, those who will suffer from the increased congestion on the roads that would be an inevitable consequence of industrial action," he said in handing down his decision following a five-hour hearing in Sydney.
He was also satisfied the action would have caused "significant damage" to Sydney's economy.
"I have decided that it would be appropriate to suspend the industrial action for a period of six weeks."
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian labelled the decision a "huge relief" which vindicated the government's decision to launch legal proceedings.
"We wanted to make sure that the customers not only avoided inconvenience, but also had certainty about rail services into the future," she told reporters.
"Now, we have certainty. It's business as usual."
Rail, Tram and Bus Union NSW secretary Alex Claassens said the union would abide by the ruling.
"But a much quicker resolution to this would be for the transport minister to simply come to the table with a fair and reasonable agreement for the workforce," he said in a statement.
"We just want to get back to doing what we do best - keeping our trains moving."
The state government had argued the strike was timed to cause "maximise damage and inconvenience" and would have cost the economy up to $90 million.
It applied on Wednesday night for an urgent suspension of the strike and overtime, which began on Thursday, cutting services almost by half.
It followed a controversial poll by the RTBU, which asked members via text message whether management's latest pay package was good enough to stop industrial action.
Negotiations continue after workers rejected a 2.75 per cent a year pay rise as part of a package including free bus travel and a one-off $1000 payment.
The union has been seeking a six per cent increase and improved conditions.
The lawyer representing Sydney Trains, Michael Seck, told the Commission an average of 440,000 people use the network during weekday peak hours.
Monday marks the start of the new term for private schools in Sydney and public school teachers, while many will return to work after holidays.
"It's been timed optimally to cause maximum damage and maximum inconvenience to the patrons who use the rail network," he said, adding public welfare would be compromised by police, paramedics and firefighters not being able to get to work.
The RTBU, through lawyer Anthony Howell, said suspending the industrial action would do "very little" to assist in resolving outstanding issues.
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