NSW: Coal drivers dispute

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Some 200 coal train drivers in the Hunter have been in dispute with their employer, Aurizon. Their union, the Rail, Tram & Bus Union (RTBU), announced last month that a breakthrough had been reached following protracted negotiations.

Whilst details of the proposed deal are still sketchy, the RBTU said an in-principle agreement had been reached which will be put to members for voting.

The dispute escalated at the end of February after 10 months of fruitless negotiations over a new collective workplace agreement with the company covering issues such as pay, long-service leave, rostering and working hours.

Given the frustration of the workers at the company’s refusal to budge the RTBU applied for protected industrial action. With 94% support of members Aurizon workers undertook a 48 hour stoppage, to which the company responded with a 40 hour lock out of staff from its Duralie and Newcastle train depots.

The lockout came after statements by the industrial relations minister Eric Abetz demanding that employers take a “tougher stand” when bargaining with unions.

Despite the company celebrating a $263 million net profit and revenue of almost $2 billion, Aurizon drivers are the worst paid freight haulage drivers in the region while the CEO enjoys a $6 million salary package and senior managers a million a piece.

By Robyn Hohl