Disruption to Sydney’s rail network will drag on for at least another day, despite unions agreeing to a further easing of industrial action that threatened to blow out the cost of a new metro rail line by hundreds of millions of dollars.
The Fair Work Commission is on Friday expected to hand down a crucial decision on the NSW government’s bid to terminate ongoing industrial action by rail workers after weeks of disruption to the transport network.
While unions have eased their bans on operating foreign-built trains, only 60 per cent of services are set to run on Friday, as the government remains locked in a prolonged stoush with rail workers over wages and the safety of a new intercity fleet.
Further union concessions were made shortly before a Fair Work Commission hearing on Thursday, where the government is attempting to terminate industrial action by rail workers, arguing the cost to the state’s economy would run into the tens of millions of dollars.
The government had also warned that action by union members was preventing work on part of the Sydney Metro City and Southwest line during the school holidays, and would increase the cost of the project by up to $250 million.
The unions agreed to ease those bans until at least July 15 to allow crucial work to go ahead. However, lawyers acting for the unions grilled senior bureaucrats at the hearing about assumptions made in government modelling on the hit to the economy.
Treasury modelling had estimated that industrial action last Friday when unions refused to staff foreign-built trains cost the NSW economy $20 million.
It was based on an assumption that workers who catch trains lose an average of 12 minutes of productive time on days with industrial action.
Under questioning from lawyer Lucy Saunders, NSW Treasury Deputy Secretary Joann Wilkie said the agency did not include in its assumptions the possibility of an increase in productivity due to more people working from home.