Coal haulage derailed in NSW

Coal haulage in NSW will come to a standstill this week as Pacific National Coal digs its heels in over a wage dispute with workers.

Asciano today announced that the NSW operation of its coal division, Pacific National Coal, will shut down for a minimum period of 24 hours on Friday after negotiations to finalise a new enterprise agreement with the Rail, Tram and Bus Union (RTBU) failed.

RTBU members voted overwhelming in favour of taking protected industrial action in December after its members voted against Pacific National's proposed deal.

Loco Division Secretary Bob Hayden said the strong vote in favour of action shows just how serious workers are about getting a fair deal.

“We don’t want to have to take protected industrial action, but Pacific National has left us with no choice but to go down this path.

“Workers deserve a fair deal, and members have shown they are prepared to keep going until we get one.”

The dispute for the new enterprise agreement has lasted over 12 months, with Asciano stating they have ‘bent over backwards to finalise the EA’.

The transport and logistics operator offered its 840 NSW employees an annual wage  increase of 4% each year for the three year deal, with an additional $2,500 in backpay.

RTBU members at Pacific National Coal (almost 80 per cent of workers) voted against the company’s enterprise agreement.

Hayden said he was glad that members didn’t settle for the company’s EA.

“It’s great that the membership have voted ‘no’ and are willing to hold out until they get a fair deal,” Hayden said.

The RTBU has accused the company of using bullying tactics after a letter was sent to members stating that if an agreement was not reached by January 31, the wage offer would drop to 3 per cent and then to 2.5 per cent if an agreement was not reached by February 28.

“This letter is nothing short of a bullying tactic by management and a disgraceful attempt at genuine negotiation with its employees,” Hayden said.

“We want fair and reasonable negotiation – and that doesn’t mean giving us timelines by which we need to agree to their terms. It means genuine negotiation until we reach an agreement both parties are happy with.”

However Pacific National Coal Director David Irwin said the RTBU were refusing a generous wage offer.

“In an increasingly challenging economy where we are seeing extensive job losses and mine closures amongst our customers, we have offered a very generous wage increase of 4 per cent each year, against the RTBU’s exorbitant publicly stated wage claim of 9% and 7%.”

“The RTBU’s behaviour is now set to hurt the hip pockets of our employees and their families, and bring unnecessary hardship and economic harm to our customers,” Irwin said.

Irwin said the 24 hour stoppage means Pacific National will be unable to load, haul or unload its coal trains in NSW, preventing at least 300,000 tonnes of coal from reaching the port.

The company estimates the exports are worth over $25 million to the NSW economy everyday.

In April last year Downer EDI coal train maintenance workers carried out strikes over similarly stalled wage negotiations

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