Train drivers to strike for 48 hours

The dispute between Pacific National Coal and the Rail Tram and Bus Union has deepened with a 48-hour strike planned for tomorrow.

The pair failed to resolve the pay dispute during mediation with the Fair Work Commission yesterday.

The union says it will go ahead with the scheduled strike unless Pacific National comes back with a better offer.

The strike is likely to stop the movement of about 600,000 tonnes of coal with an estimated value of $50 million.

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.

However 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.

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.

Coal economist Doctor Donald Barnett told the ABC that the strike has the potential to cause major issues for mining companies.

"Two days itself is a nuisance more than a long lasting problem," he said.

However Barnett warned that if the dispute were to continue, major competitors would step in to fill the gap.

"We have a major producer who produces more than us on our doorstep, which is Indonesia," he said.

"This makes it easier for the Indonesians to sell their coal and more difficult for us but in the short run, if it's only two days then it's no major problem."

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