Aurizon train drivers to strike

Coal haulage in NSW will be seriously impacted next week as around 200 train drivers undertake industrial action over a wage dispute.

The Rail Tram and Bus Union has threatened a 24-hour stoppage on Tuesday and another on Thursday as well as a ban on overtime this weekend.

The move comes as wage negotiations, which have been ongoing since May last year, reach a stalemate.

RTBU national secretary Bob Nanva said the rights of the workforce to a ‘‘fair and reasonable’’ pay increase was at stake.

‘‘This is multinational greed at its worst. We’re seeing a full court press from massive, highly profitable companies who are trying to deny a workforce of 200 train drivers their legitimate right to collectively bargain,’’ Nanva said.

Aurizon said it has been bargaining in good faith and warned any strike action would hurt the local Hunter Valley economy.

“This irresponsible strike action comes at a time when local coal producers are needing every tonne of coal shipped,” the transport company said.

“A 48 hour strike effectively becomes 72 hours of lost production because it takes about 12 hours to close down operations and 12 hours to re-start our business.”

The Aurizon proposal includes a reduction in working hours for train drivers, increases in long service leave, a 12per cent wage increase over three years and a $2000 one-off cash payment.

The company has warned that if train drivers go on strike, they will be forfeiting the $2000 payment.

“Strike action changes nothing,” the company said.

“The rail union seems intent on refusing a good deal and causing industrial chaos in our operations and for the business of our customers. This will hurt the Hunter Valley economy.”

Meanwhile, BHP Billiton has threatened to take the union to court over the strike action, Newcastle Herald reported.

The miner says its Mt Arthur Coal mine will be negatively affected by strikes, with the mine’s general manager, Mark van den Heuvel, stating it would take “all necessary steps’’ including legal action to prevent harm to its business.

‘‘As you will appreciate, particularly in the current economic climate being experienced in the coalmining industry, it is not in the interests of the members of the RTBU or other workers in the industry, for industrial action to be taken which will cause harm to that industry,’’ he said in a letter to the union.

Aurizon said it has been communicating with customers and working on contingency plans and response options.

To keep up to date with Australian Mining, subscribe to our free email newsletters delivered straight to your inbox. Click here.