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Australian Port Kembla coal terminal workers return to work; more unrest feared

Thursday, 09 February 2012 | 11:00
Workers at the Port Kembla coal terminal returned to work Wednesday, with the ending of a seven-day strike, but there is the threat of further industrial action Thursday and Friday, the management said.
The seven-day strike by about 100 members of the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union started February 1 and lasted until 7:00 am Australian Eastern Standard Time Wednesday (2000 GMT Tuesday).
Port Kembla coal terminal general manager, Peter Green, said by telephone Wednesday that the terminal was returning to normal in terms of its coal-loading operations. But he stressed there was the possibility of further work stoppages at the terminal located 72 km south of Sydney, with the next starting at 7:00 am AEST Thursday and scheduled to last for 48 hours.
The terminal management and unions attended conciliation talks during the seven-day strike, though they failed to achieve a breakthrough.
"The parties are still speaking, but obviously we haven't come to an agreement," said Green.
A spokesman for the CFMEU said by email Tuesday: "Terminal workers will return to full work tomorrow [Wednesday] for a day before undertaking rolling stoppages at the terminal until an outcome is reached."
The union has submitted a 4.5% pay claim and is insisting on extra job security for its members, and both claims are being resisted by the terminal's management.
The terminal's management expressed concern in an update emailed last Wednesday that industrial action at the coal shipment facility could undermine its hard won reputation for reliability.
"PKCT has a strong position of reliability with its customers in historically not having ship queues, however, this industrial action puts at threat this reputation with our customers in domestic and international markets," said the coal terminal in its update.
The coal terminal at Port Kembla is operated by BHP Billiton and serves five coal producers with mines in the southern and western coal fields of New South Wales including, BHP Billiton's Illawarra Coal subsidiary, Centennial Coal and Xstrata.
The facility shipped 13.6 million mt of coal exports in 2011.
Platts estimates last week's strike action could have delayed 262,000 mt of coal exports from Port Kembla.
Source: Platts
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