New government offer to NSW rail workers

The NSW combined rail unions negotiating and campaign committees met on July 23 to discuss RailCorp's latest offer for a new enterprise agreement.

The offer includes:
•a pay rise of 4% per year over two years, back paid from April 1;
•a core agreement that either improves or maintains existing conditions, provides a "no extra claims" clause outlining the areas where Railcorp intends to undertake reforms during the life of the new agreement, and provides for the "capturing" of the value of any savings made during the second year of the agreement to go towards the next agreement; and
•a deed that will maintain all existing conditions that would have had to be removed from the new agreement because of Work Choices.

The committee rejected as exorbitant the conditions Railcorp has demanded in exchange for a 5% wage increase, and unanimously passed a resolution stating: "The combined Rail Unions Committee congratulates all rail union members for their strong stand in support of our claim for a Union Collective Agreement to maintain conditions and deliver a fair and reasonable wage increase" and recommended that "meetings of members be called to consider and vote on Railcorp's offer".

The unions have won significant concessions during the negotiations, including the scrapping of 417 station area job cuts. This victory was undoubtedly the result of the unions' threat to take strike action during World Youth Day.

On paper at least, Railcorp's latest offer is better than the NSW government's offers to some other public sector unions. However, this simply highlights the need for a united public sector workers' campaign that can end the government's tactic of taking on — and pushing back — public sector unions one by one.