Sydney train crisis heads for IRC mediation

<p>New South Wales Rail Corp and the rail unions are headed for the Industrial Relations Commission (IRC) in a last ditch bid to avert strike action next week.</p> <p>A RailCorp spokesman said it hoped the IRC would grant a hearing either later today (Wednesday, November 10) or tomorrow.</p> <p>Rail unions said they are prepared to bring the Sydney passenger train network to a standstill to "bring the rail crisis to a head".</p> <p>The present crisis is centred on disputes over a new enterprise agreement that RailCorp is attempting to negotiate with unions, a process that coincides with worsening delays on the system.</p> <p>Rail unions say they are angered by RailCorp’s attitude to the network problems and feel that train drivers are being scapegoated for management and systemic deficiencies.</p> <p>"Since the NSW Government changed the rail service into a corporation 10 months ago, the workforce has been asked to work harder and longer, often with no recognition," a combined rail unions statement said.</p> <p>"They have been poked and prodded, forced to undergo urine samples, heart tests and even discredited mind games under the name of psychometric testing.</p> <p>"Drivers have been scapegoated, guards and station staff abused and maintenance workers blamed for the effects of poor management."</p> <p>RailCorp has pointed to safety improvements on the network in the wake of the Waterfall crash as one of the reasons for the increased train delays.</p> <p>Enforced slower speeds have caused delays, compounded by an unseparated network and driver shortages.</p> <p>The government is committed to a rail clearways program that will separate much of network by 2010, but that will do nothing to assuage commuter anger over the present crisis.</p> <p>RailCorp is understood to be angered by what it sees as a sudden spike in short-term sick leave among drivers, coinciding with "the sharp end" of enterprise bargaining agreement negotiations.</p> <p>Whatever the motivations and intentions of the parties involved, all have agreed that negotiations have foundered and are looking to the IRC to broker a solution. </p> <br />