RTBU strike goes ahead

Last minute mediation at Fair work Australia fails to prevent a 48 hour Rail Tram and Bus Union strike going ahead from midday today

RTBU strike goes ahead
RTBU strike goes ahead

By Anna Game-Lopata | February 8, 2013

Last minute mediation at Fair work Australia has failed to prevent a 48 hour Rail Tram and Bus Union (RTBU) strike going ahead from midday today in the heart of NSW's Hunter Valley coal region.

Pacific National Coal Director David Irwin met with Minister for Workplace Relations Bill Shorten, the RTBU and Fair Work Australia’s Senior Deputy President Anne Harrison on Wednesday in an attempt to reach a resolution to the current dispute over a pay
rise for rail freight workers.

The two sides, who have been attempting to negotiate a new Enterprise Agreement (EA) for the NSW employees of Pacific National’s Coal division for over 12 months, both claim the other won’t budge.

RTBU National Secretary Bob Nanva says Pacific National has not improved its offer to members and has instead lowered it.

Pacific National, which stopped bargaining at a 4 percent pay rise in each of the three years of the agreement, had warned the union
its offer would be taken off the table if agreement was not reached by January 31st.

As of that time, Pacific National reduced its offer to 3 percent per year.

However the RTBU says 85 percent of its members voted down the 4 percent offer last December. The union is looking for something in between the range of 5 and 9 percent pay rise each year.

Meanwhile Pacific National says it is willing to move on the figure, but the RTBU has refused consent arbitration at Fair Work Australia.

"We understand arbitration might result in our having to give way on some elements of the agreement, however we prefer that to protected industrial action," a spokesperson for Pacific National parent company Asciano says.

"We don’t understand why the union won’t consent to arbitration at Fair Work. Despite that, we are still hopeful some progress might be made before midday today."

But the RTBU says it objects to Pacific National’s "hard line" approach to collective bargaining directly with the union.

Bob Nanva
claims Pacific National is trying to frustrate the legitimate right of its workforce to negotiate.

"There is a basic principle at stake here, and that is the right of Australian workers to collectively bargain with union representation," he says.

"We have said all along that we want to negotiate with Pacific National, and yet the company has simply pulled down the shutters."

The 48-hour industrial stoppage of Pacific National coal workers will prevent about 600,000 tones of coal from getting to port.

The strike is expected to cost the broader Australian economy about $50 million with a figure of about $3.18 million lost each day in NSW government royalties.

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