Aussie coal workers walked off the job

More than 200 workers at Australia's Newcastle port, the largest thermal coal export facility in the world, walked off the job this morning as part of an eight hour strike as a long running dispute over new enterprise agreements continue.

The Maritime Union of Australia said the stop-work action would take place from 6:30am to 2:30pm local time.

The union has also announced plans to take part in 24-hour strikes on May 29 if an agreement cannot be reached.

Today’s action follows a four-hour stoppage in early May.

The five unions involved in the Port Waratah Coal Services (PWCS) dispute are the Australian Manufacturing Workers' Union, the Maritime Union of Australia, the Transport Workers' Union, the Australian Workers' Union, and the Communications, Electrical and Plumbing Union. They have been negotiating a new workplace agreement for more than nine months.

According to The Newcastle Herald, over 50% of the coal being exported through Newcastle is sold at a loss.

Almost 85% of the region’s coal exports is made up of lower-priced thermal coal, used in power stations, not coking coal, which is used in steelmaking and is still running at about $140 a tonne.

The lower-priced thermal coal is selling at about $87 a tonne and, based on a new report by consulting group Wood Mackenzie —commissioned by the Australian Coal Association— more than 40 of the 71 thermal mines surveyed had cash operating costs above that level.