Australia's Pacific National coal train drivers to strike over wages
Perth (Platts)--18Jan2013/600 am EST/1100 GMT
Pacific National's coal train division in the Australian state of New
South Wales is facing a strike threat with 80% of its drivers and ancillary
staff voted in favor of work stoppage for 12, 24 and 48 hours, Bob Nanva,
national secretary of the Rail, Tram and Bus Union, said Friday.
He said that "80% voted overwhelmingly in favor of industrial action and
it follows their rejection of the company's proposed new enterprise agreement
by 85% last December."
Nanva was unable to comment on the timing and scope of any industrial
action at Pacific National. This was for union delegates who would be meeting
soon to decide on a strategy, he added.
The union was willing to keep its dialogue with the company open, he
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"We are happy to sit at the negotiating table ... The ball is in the
court of Pacific National," he said.
The union is seeking a 9% pay rise in the first year of a new enterprise
agreement for its members working for Pacific National's coal haulage
division in New South Wales, followed by two successive rises of 7% in each
of the second and third years of the agreement.
Nanva said the union's pay claims were "eminently affordable" by Pacific
National, and were based on union research of projected increases in coal
export volumes from New South Wales coalfields.
PACIFIC NATIONAL RESPONDS
Asciano, Pacific National's parent company, acknowledged in an emailed
statement Friday that the union had voted for industrial action, and
expressed disappointment at the outcome.
"The ballot of Rail, Tram and Bus Union members, with 57% of eligible
employees voting, has just been declared in support of protected industrial
action," said the company in its statement.
Asciano said it was committed to its position of seeking the best
possible outcome for its employees, with minimum disruption to its customers.
"As a result of seeking a formal response from the RTBU regarding our
offers, including the offer to move to consent arbitration, we have agreed to
meet on Wednesday and look forward to discussing their response," said
Asciano, which is listed on the Australian Securities Exchange.
"If, and when, the RTBU decides to take action, the union is required
under the Act to provide us with a minimum of three working days' notice
before any protected industrial action can occur," the company added.
Asciano also noted that a smaller group of union members belonging to
the Australian Manufacturing Workers' Union had failed to achieve the
required threshold for strike action in its ballot, because fewer than 50% of
its five members had voted.
Only two AMWU members in the Pacific National coal division had voted
for work stoppages, according to the results of the vote posted on the
website of Fair Work Australia, Thursday.
Pacific National's trains carry 65% of all the coal transported on the
New South Wales rail network, and the company's coal haulage division employs
995 employees, according to the spokeswoman.
Some coal producers in New South Wales such as Whitehaven Coal and
Xstrata operate their own trains.
Aurizon, formerly known as QR National, also operates some trains in New
South Wales that transport coal to ports such as Newcastle, which shipped 134
million mt of coal exports in 2012.
--Mike Cooper, firstname.lastname@example.org
--Edited by E Shailaja Nair, email@example.com