AusRAIL, Market Sectors

PN Coal NSW drivers set to strike

<span class="" id="parent-fieldname-description"> Coal trains operated by Pacific National Coal throughout New South Wales will come to a halt this weekend as loco crews embark on a 48-hour stoppage that follows a breakdown in negotiations over a new enterprise agreement (EA) with their employer. </span> <p>Protected industrial action by the Rail Tram and Bus Union (RTBU) was originally scheduled for a minimum period of 24 hours, starting at 12pm on Friday 8 February and concluding at 12pm on Saturday 9 February.&nbsp</p><p>However, the RTBU has responded to Pacific National Coal’s (PN Coal) lowered pay offer with a second consecutive 24 hour stoppage this weekend with coal freight drivers now scheduled to strike between midday, Friday and midday, Sunday.</p><p>RTBU national secretary, Bob Nanva, said the extension of the industrial action came after clear provocation from Pacific National, which cut its pay offer to employees on Tuesday.</p><p>&quotPacific National management has barely budged since 85% of the workforce comprehensively rejected their proposed non-union EA in December, Nanva said.</p><p>&quotIn fact, the company is punishing its workforce for their comprehensive rejection of the non union agreement by lowering its wage offer. The RTBU has taken every possible opportunity presented to us to participate in negotiation. We have twice offered Pacific National intense 48 hour bargaining sessions.”</p><p>According to Nanva, the company revealed the ‘true value’ of these train drivers in its most recent profit statement when it reported that Asciano enjoyed a 43%increase in its annual profit.</p><p>&quotPN Coal is doing very well. It can afford a reasonable pay rise for the very people who create that profitability,” he said.</p><p>PN Coal’s parent company Asciano said the company has been negotiating in good faith with the RTBU over a replacement EA for its NSW workforce for more than 12 months.</p><p>The company’s offer states that if agreement was reached by 31 January 2013, with no protected industrial action taken, it would include 4% each year for three years with back pay to 1 July 2012. However, if agreement was not reached by 31 January but still reached by 28 February 2013 it will include 3% each year for three years with back pay to 1 February 2013.</p><p>It is the invocation of the latter clause that has triggered the extension of the RTBU’s industrial action.</p><p>PN Coal says that the notification of an additional 24 hour stoppage is a significant escalation of the dispute over a new EA for its 840 NSW employees, and comes at a time when the coal industry is already experiencing considerable challenges.</p><p>PN coal director, David Irwin said the company views the RTBU’s notification of an additional 24 hour stoppage before taking the initial 24 hour stoppage as both “irresponsible and unnecessary.”</p><p>“It does nothing to bring us closer to resolution on our EA negotiations,” he said.</p><p>“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% each year, against the RTBU’s exorbitant publicly stated wage claim of 9%, 7% and 7%.</p><p>“We have met 27 times over the past year and bent over backwards to finalise the EA. The union logged 103 separate claims at the outset of these negotiations, and we have agreed to 93 of these, and offered wage increases well above CPI and other comparable industry norms.</p><p>“There are no productivity trade-offs included in the proposed agreement which further highlights the extreme nature of the RTBU wage claims,&quot Irwin said.&nbsp</p><p>PN Coal is the largest coal haulage operator in NSW and is currently responsible for hauling 80% of the state’s total domestic and export coal.</p><p>It is estimated the industrial action will prevent at least 600,000 tonnes of coal from reaching the port.</p><p>Further confusion has also been created with two coal companies not involved in the salary negotiations reportedly taking the unusual step of threatening legal action against workers involved the dispute with a different company. Both Xstrata Coal NSW and Whitehaven Coal have suggested that they might take steps to have the strike action declared illegal.<br />&nbsp</p>