Talks to avert rail strike break down. Wednesday Feb 06, 2013
Coal industry rail drivers in NSW are still due to strike for 48 hours from Friday after mediation talks broke down.
The Rail, Tram and Bus Union (RTBU) and Pacific National Coal could not agree on a new enterprise agreement for its 800 workers, despite the involvement of the Fair Work Commission and discussions with Workplace Relations Minister Bill Shorten.
Major coal producers Xstrata and Whitehaven are considering applying to the Fair Work Commission for third-party termination orders that could legally stop the strike on the basis of significant economic harm.
The strike threatens the delivery of 600,000 tonnes of coal worth more than $55 million at current prices by Pacific National, while disrupting the 20 to 30 per cent of the state's coal it does not haul because of about 40 idle trains blocking lines.
The RTBU started negotiations last year by asking for pay rises over three years of nine, seven and seven per cent.
Pacific National responded with four per cent a year for three years.
The workers rejected the offer but Pacific National reduced its offer to three per cent from this week, which led to an escalation of the proposed strike action from 24 hours to 48 hours.
AAP understands the union has reduced its offer to seven, five and five per cent.
The union has not ruled out more strike action while Pacific National could reduce its pay rise offer further to 2.5 per cent.
Bob Nanva, the union's national secretary, said that since April last year Pacific National had reduced an offer that had already been rejected by 85 per cent of the workforce.
"While we would be happy to meet again, Pacific National needs to shift in order to resolve this dispute," he said.
Most of the workers, which include train drivers, maintainers and terminal operators, are paid a base rate of $63,000 a year, but the company says the average fully trained train driver actually earns $105,000 including overtime.
Every coal disruption just means a better deal for those that got coal to sell. Let it led to higher prices and the stocks of US coal companies will go up. As I have preached since this past summer I said ANR could compete with Australia for coal to Asia. I said it takes longer to get there but it is cheaper than Australia coal. With the train companies giving a 15 percent discount on shipping . With lower cost than Australia coal. With low Baltic dry Index rates why not go with ANR.
In 2014 when the panama canal is open to bigger ships we will be able to load bigger loads on the eastern coast and gulf and ship through the canal to China or India. The new lock chambers will be 1,400 feet long by 180 feet wide, and 60 feet deep.