Union threatens job action at BHP Billiton's coal port

Labour negotiations between BHP Billiton and unions representing coal workers are at an impasse and could disrupt coal operations across Eastern Australia.

A strike could start as early as Friday at Port Kembla, a major coal port in New South Wales 72 km south of Sydney, if the two sides don't find a resolution.

Talks are centered around wages and job classifications. The Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union is seeking a 4.5% salary increase for its members. There is also a dispute under which workers fall under union memembership or middle management.

Illawarra Mercury reports that BHP Billiton shippped 13.96 million tonnes of coal through Port Kembla. The port is also used by other major miners such as Peabody Energy and Xstrata.