PERTH, June 7 Workers at Australia's Newcastle
port, the world's largest thermal coal export facility, plan to
stop work for 16 hours this weekend in a continued protest of
changes proposed to their employment contract that they fear
will erode their rights.
About 220 union workers will participate in two eight-hour
strikes on Friday and Saturday.
Union workers have staged several strikes over the last few
weeks, with little impact to Australia's thermal coal exports.
Thermal coal exports from Newcastle rose 5.8 percent in the week
to June 3.
Australia's Newcastle daily spot index closed at $86.68 per
tonne on Thursday, down from $87.82 per tonne a week earlier,
data from online trading platform globalCOAL showed.
Port Waratah Coal Services (PWCS), which operates the
Newcastle port facility, held negotiations this past week and
expects to hold further negotiations in the coming week.
"The main issue is the dispute resolution procedure," said
Daniel Wallace, a New South Wales state organizer for the
Australian Manufacturing Workers Union. But there were a number
of other issues still in dispute, including the use of contract
employees, he said.
The union wants to keep the current dispute procedure which
allows disagreements to be escalated into arbitration. PWCS
would like company managers to make the final decisions on
disputes rather than have them escalated to arbitration,
according to the union.
"We're making progress (but) it's not as fast as we'd like,"
a PWCS spokesman said.
PWCS has about 450 permanent employees, about half of which
are union members, and an additional 200 contract workers.
The Newcastle coal port will export around 110 million
tonnes of coal this year and has a capacity of around 145
million tonnes of coal a year.
Port Waratah is partially owned by Rio Tinto
subsidiary Coal & Allied Industries.