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Aurizon train crew return to strikes on Queensland coal services after talks fail

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Aurizon train crew return to strikes on Queensland coal services after talks fail

Highlights

Australian rail unions reignite industrial action on Aurizon coal trains

Aurizon working with Queensland coal producers to reduce disruption

Perth — Drivers and crew operating Aurizon coal trains in the Australian state of Queensland are to restart their industrial action next week after embarking on a series of 24-hour strikes in the lead up to Christmas, said company and union sources Thursday.

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Train workers belonging to Australia's Rail, Tram and Bus Union are to begin a seven-day ban on working overtime over January 25-31, affecting coal train services from Aurizon's rail depots in Queensland, including Coppabella, Jilalan, Fisherman Island, Pring and Roma, said the union in a statement.

"Aurizon has received notices of protected industrial action from rail unions for overtime bans over a seven day period starting midnight on January 25 [1400 GMT, January 24] at depots serving the coal business in Queensland," said a spokesman for the company in response to questions from S&P Global Platts.

The rail operator said it has contingency plans in hand to deal with the planned industrial action by train crew in Queensland, and will be working closely with its coal producer customers to minimize any disruption to their coal exports.

TALKS RESTART

Aurizon this month restarted its negotiations with rail unions for a new collective workplace agreement covering pay and conditions for workers in its Queensland coal haulage business, said the Aurizon spokesman.

The talks' progress has been slow to date, said Queensland RTBU Secretary, Owen Doogan, adding: "Aurizon management turn up to meetings, only to sit there looking bored and clearly indicating there are other places they would rather be. They simply have no intention of reaching an agreement with their workers."

In December, after talks with the company broke down, rail unions representing 1,500 Aurizon train workers called a series of strikes lasting 24 hours on Aurizon's different rail lines in Queensland that deliver coal exports to ports, including Brisbane, Abbot Point and Gladstone.

The strikes leading up to Christmas resulted in the cancellation of 135 coal trains, said the RTBU. The unions also implemented a seven-day overtime ban for train workers between Christmas and New Year.

Doogan said in the union's statement that "export supply chains for coal and minerals had become collateral damage in Aurizon's cynical industrial relations strategy."

The RTBU has asked its members working in Aurizon's haulage business for bulk commodities in north Queensland to come out on strike, including for 24 hours on Monday, in a separate industrial dispute.

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CLEAR MESSAGE

In an update Wednesday on its website, the Australian Federated Union of Locomotive Employees, or AFULE, said it had notified Aurizon that its train crew members will be re-starting their industrial action on the company's Queensland rail services for coal exports, after talks with the company this week did not go well.

"Despite our message being incredibly clear from the commencement of negotiations that conditions and an improved work-life balance for our members is what we are seeking, Aurizon came to the table with little proposed improvements," said the AFULE in its bulletin.

The train drivers' union is seeking an overhaul of shift extensions, some certainty to shift start times, and penalty payments for alterations to shift working times. The AFULE is asking its members in Queensland working on Aurizon's coal train services to start a seven-day overtime ban on January 25.

--Michael Cooper, michael.cooper@spglobal.com

--Edited by Ikhhlaq Singh Aujla, newsdesk@spglobal.com