Train strike ordered to be abandoned by Fair Work Commission

NSW rail workers have been ordered by the Fair Work Commission to abandon their 24-hour strike on the NSW train network on Monday, as well as their indefinite ban on overtime from 6pm on Thursday.

Just before 1.30pm on Thursday, the commission's senior deputy president Jonathan Hamberger ruled that both forms of industrial action "threatens to endanger the welfare of part of the population".

They also threatened "to cause significant damage to the economy of Sydney - the largest and most economically important city in Australia", Mr Hamberger said.

The strike was due to affect all regional XPTs as well as intercity trains and Sydney Trains suburban trains.

Prior to the decision, regional residents had already begun making alternate plans, with Australia Wide Coaches (AWC) getting a rise in bookings.

AWC , which operates an service between Orange and Sydney including stops at Bathurst and Lithgow,  was considering running more buses.

“We are experiencing increased demand. In the first 12 hours [since the strike was confirmed] we have seen our bookings increase,” AWC operations manager Stefan Robinson said prior to the FWC ruling.

“Today [Thursday] we only have 10 seats left and we won’t run an additional service but certainly for the weekend and Monday, if the demand is there we will add more coaches.”

The suspension of the strike and overtime ban will begin from 6pm on Thursday and last until 6pm on March 8.

Rail, Train and Bus Union state secretary Alex Claassens said he accepted the decision of the independent umpire.

"My members will be disappointed quite rightly but we have been able to make people listen to our concerns," he said.

"We were forced into this position by a Transport Minister who just wouldn't come to the table. We finally got him to the table [and] we are continuing to work through those issues."

However, he conceded that the Fair Work decision had weakened the unions' leverage in the negotiations, which were continuing with Sydney Trains management on Thursday afternoon.

"We will obviously stay here tonight and negotiate an agreement," he said.

Sydney Trains chief executive Howard Collins said he would be talking to the unions to see whether they would waive the need for staff to be given two days notice of working outside their rostered hours in order to allow the rail operator to put on extra services on Thursday evening.

But he said the equivalent of a Saturday timetable remained at present and he urged people to plan their trips and avoid the peak between 5pm and 6.30pm if they could.

This story Train workers ordered to abandon strike by Fair Work Commission first appeared on Lithgow Mercury.

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