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Aurizon's Australian Hunter Valley coal rail operations hit by 28-hour strike

Sydney — Australian rail operator Aurizon had 28 hours of industrial action take place on its Hunter Valley coal rail corridor over the weekend, a spokeswoman for the company confirmed via email Monday.

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The action included a 28-hour stoppage from 12:01 am local time Saturday (1400 GMT Friday), August 18 to 4:02 am Sunday, August 19, a 24-hour stoppage followed by a further four hour stoppage, she said.

"There were no Aurizon train services in operation across the Hunter Valley network during the stoppage period. We worked with our customers to minimize disruptions to their business," she said.

"Industrial action has the potential to cause significant economic disruption for our customers, the coal supply chain in the Hunter Valley and the broader economy," she added.

The strike was the result of a breakdown in negotiations between Aurizon and the Rail Tram and Bus Union in New South Wales, over a new NSW Coal Operations Enterprise Agreement.

"There is a fair and reasonable deal on the table for train drivers. Aurizon is offering wage increases at 2.5% per year for three years, and some employee-desired changes to their current conditions. Aurizon notes that the RTBU recently settled an agreement with a competitor for 2% for the first two years, and then 2.5% for the following two years. Aurizon's offer on the table commits to a higher wage increase," the spokeswoman said.

RBTU was not available for immediate comment.

The Hunter Valley Rail Corridor connects mines in the region to the Port of Newcastle. Major Aurizon customers in the Hunter Valley include BHP, Peabody Energy, Whitehaven and Yancoal.

In fiscal 2017-2018 (July-June), Aurizon reported above rail coal volumes on the Hunter Valley network of 52.3 million mt, which is up 10% from 47.7 million mt a year earlier, Aurizon said last week.

-- Nathan Richardson, newsdesk@spglobal.com

-- Edited by Norazlina Jumaat, norazlina.jumaat@spglobal.com