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Australian Port Kembla coal terminal workers call off 24-hour strike

Wednesday, 22 February 2012 | 00:00
Employees at Port Kembla coal terminal have agreed to cancel their 24-hour strike scheduled for 7:00 am Sydney time Wednesday (2000 GMT Tuesday) through to Thursday morning, after making progress in talks with terminal management Tuesday, said the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union in a statement.
The breakthrough came too late to call off a four-hour strike due to start at 5:00 pm Sydney time Tuesday, said a spokesman for the union.
A decision will be taken Wednesday on whether employees will strike as planned for 12 hours on Friday, the union spokesman added.
"We are hopeful we will be able to reach a fair outcome on our Enterprise Bargaining Agreement claims, but that depends on Port Kembla coal terminal board endorsing what was discussed in negotiations yesterday [Tuesday]," said CFMEU district vice-president Bob Timbs in the statement.
The union said it had agreed to a request from Gujarat NRE Coking Coal to load a 50,000 mt coal cargo on to a ship that had been waiting at the Port Kembla coal terminal since January 21.
Meanwhile, coal train operator Pacific National said Tuesday it had decided to stand down train drivers in its Port Kembla coal freight operation after losing 306 hours to strikes at the coal terminal since January 31.
"During this time, the company has been unable to unload its coal trains at the Port Kembla coal terminal, which has significantly impacted its ability to service its customers and provide work to its employees," said Pacific National's Australian parent company Asciano in an emailed statement.
Later on Tuesday, a Pacific National spokeswoman told Platts the company had rescinded its decision to stand down without pay 108 of its staff, including train drivers, after hearing that the CFMEU had canceled its strike for Wednesday.
CFMEU official Timbs earlier expressed disappointment at Asciano's decision to stand down some of its coal train drivers, saying "it is certainly not the CFMEU's intention to cause issues for employees indirectly affected by the protected action [at Port Kembla coal terminal]."
QR National, another operator of coal train services in Australia, said it was not affected by the strikes at Port Kembla coal terminal.
"We do not operate into Port Kembla," said a QR National spokesman Tuesday.
The coal terminal at Port Kembla is operated by BHP Billiton on behalf of its five coal producer-owners which include Centennial Coal, Gujarat NRE Coking Coal, Peabody Energy and Xstrata.
The terminal ships mostly coking coal and some thermal coal and its stockpile area has capacity for 850,000 mt of coal exports, though its optimal capacity is around 600,000 mt, according to the terminal's website.
Source: Platts
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