Talks unlikely to stop Newcastle coal terminal strike

A standoff continues between unions and Port Waratah Coal Services (PWCS), with a new strike planned this week

Talks unlikely to stop Newcastle coal terminal strike
Emergency talks unlikely to stop Newcastle port strike
By Sean Muir | May 21, 2013

Negotiations have again stalled between
unions and Rio Tinto’s subsidiary, Port Waratah Coal Services (PWCS), with another strike planned in Newcastle this week, following a four-hour strike last week.

The Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) and PWCS held a damage-control meeting today in the hope of averting
a coal worker
strike planned for Friday.

But insiders say the PWCS
still refuses to budge on key enterprise agreement conditions, and the planned strike is likely to go ahead.

The MUA early this morning announced PWCS workers would strike on Friday from 6.30am
to 14.30pm.

According to the union, the new protected action follows more than 200 members striking on May 15 and unanimously endorsing future action to resolve the dispute with PWCS.

MUA Newcastle branch secretary Glen Williams says negotiations continue to prove futile.

"We are at an impasse around the major things that we see as important to us and that we need satisfaction on – the dispute resolution clause and contractors agreement," Williams says.

"Our issue is purely around job security and maintaining the consultative and cooperative relationship that we have enjoyed for 30 years, and we don’t see the need to change that. All we are asking for is what we currently have in the agreement – we are not asking for more."

The union and the company
will meet again on Thursday, with hopes to avoid the planned protected action.

"The changes the company is seeking in our opinion threaten our members’ job security so we need to get satisfaction on those key issues if we were to consider removing the action," Williams says.

Williams says plans for a strike Friday are in line with the solidarity expressed by rank-and-file members.

He says workers across all five unions are solidly united behind the simple principle that they are as much a part of the success of the company as management is.

The unions and PWCS have been negotiating terms for a new enterprise bargaining agreement since July.

The MUA, Transport Workers Union (TWU), Electrical Trade Union (ETU), and the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union (AMWU) in early May notified PWCS about the strike held last week.

The unions continue to claim that PWCS is trying to make changes to a previously successful agreement by altering dispute procedure and contract labour clauses.

They say the changes will restrict the union's ability to challenge the company and threaten job security.

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