Eight-hour strike to hit Australian PWCS coal terminals
The unions representing about 200 workers at two Port Waratah Coal Services (PWCS)-owned coal-loading terminals at Australia's port of Newcastle have called an-eight-hour strike on Friday, demanding "a fair agreement".
The Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) said on Tuesday the strike will begin on Friday at 06:30 hours Sydney time and last until 14:30.
"We continue to keep the door wide open for a fair agreement," said Ian Bray, assistant national secretary of the MUA.
"But we are also going forward with a steady campaign of legally protected action as well as a broader strategy to bring justice to our members."
The eight-hour strike is an escalation on the previous four-hour stoppage, which took place on 15 May (see CSD 10 May 2013). PWCS has yet to respond to a request about how much the four-hour stoppage affected the loading of coal onto vessels. The company had previously said it would employ temporary staff to cover the gap.
Prices at free on board (FOB) Newcastle physical and swaps markets have yet to really react to the strike. FOB Newcastle June-loading cargoes are bid higher than July and August, but this has been the case for some time. The strike action in Australia has been overshadowed in the Pacific Basin by reports the Chinese government is set to ban the import of coal with a calorific value of less than 4,540Kcal/kg NAR, sulphur content of not more than 1%, and an ash content of not more than 25% (see CSD 17 May 2013).
If the ban goes ahead, the Australian coal market could be one of the beneficiaries of a likely switch away from Indonesian coal by Chinese buyers.
Data from the Hunter Valley Coal Chain Coordinator (HVCCC) shows that coal received into the three Newcastle terminals - including the Newcastle Coal Infrastructure Group (NCIG)-owned terminal - was down considerably in the week ended 19 May.
Over the seven-day period, coal moved into the three terminals was down 63% from a week earlier at 1.1m tonnes. However, the reduction in throughput is linked to major maintenance work which took place on the rail lines that transport coal into Newcastle. No major work is planned for this week.
Coal shipped from the three terminals was down 20% in the week ending 19 May, according to Newcastle Port Corporation. About 1.6m tonnes of coal was shipped from the two PWCS terminals, according to HVCCC data. This is also 20% below what was shipped from the PWCS terminals a week earlier.
Coal stocks at the two PWCS terminals have dipped under 1.0m tonnes for the first time in about five weeks. NCIG does not release such information for its coal stocks.
The other bodies involved in the strike are: the Transport Workers Union; the Electrical Trade Union; the Communications, Electrical and Plumbing Union; and the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union. All five unions are represented in a single bargaining unit. Fionn O'Raghallaigh
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