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Unions to ‘fight even harder’ in future as ARTC drama ends

The boss of a major NSW transport union has vowed to “fight even harder” in future negotiations with the Australian Rail Track Corporation, after unions were forced to cancel massive work stoppages when workers voted in favour of the agreement put forward by the ARTC.

The ARTC, which manages 8500 kilometres of track across five states, including the NSW interstate and freight networks, had been doing battle with unions led by the Rail Tram and Bus Union (RTBU), over a new agreement to cover its NSW interstate passenger and freight network employees.

Intense industrial action took place on the network in recent days, and more strikes were scheduled for next week.

The Corporation had argued its offer of 2% pay increases each year over the three years of the deal was reasonable given current market conditions, but the unions had claimed the deal was a serious downgrade for workers.

The ARTC employees were given the opportunity to vote on the matter from Thursday last week, and by Monday the Corporation announced the deal had been approved by the majority of workers, despite a fervent campaign against the deal by the RTBU.

“This has been a difficult period for our business and the rail industry generally,” ARTC boss John Fullerton said.

“With a majority of NSW staff voting in favour of the new enterprise agreement, our focus now shifts to rebuilding and restoring confidence in rail.”

With the deal still needing approval from the Fair Work Commission, however, the ARTC was initially unsure whether unions would push on with major industrial action.

But the ARTC said on Tuesday that unions had informed strike action would not go ahead.

NSW RTBU boss Alex Claassens said the deal was a backwards step for workers’ rights.

“I want to thank the workers across ARTC, and from other unions, who have shown their support and solidarity fighting for a better deal,” he said on August 16.

“They sacrificed a lot to stand up for their fellow workers.

“ARTC has been rewarded for demonising workers publicly and running a misinformation campaign for weeks, even calling on the Federal Government to pressure workers into signing this dud deal. In the end, their tricky tactics worked.

“The union will now fight even harder in upcoming EA negotiations for other ARTC workers to deliver stronger job protections for our members.”

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