Port Kembla Coal Terminal (PKCT) workers are expected to be back on the job on Thursday night, four days after being locked out amid an ongoing pay dispute.
For the first time in its history, the PKCT shut out 60 staff for four days – to pressure the mining union to end a three-year battle to remove restrictions on management.
The lockout, which began at 7pm on Sunday and was due to end at 7pm on Thursday, came in response to the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union’s latest wave of industrial action set to disrupt coal exports.
On Thursday, CFMEU southwest district vice president Bob Timbs said the union hadn’t been notified of further lockouts and, unless the current one was extended, its members were due to return to work at 7pm.
PKCT operations manager John Gorman told Fairfax Media earlier this week the long-term fate of the terminal was at stake as major coal companies increasingly opted to export coal through Newcastle due to its more competitive operating costs.
The PCKT, which at its peak was loading more than 14 million tonnes of coal a year, saw its forecast throughput for 2018 fall by almost half.
“Our 5.1 million tonnes will be the lowest throughput ever on record and I've been telling my employees now for many, many months it is absolutely critical for our business to right now set up the safe, sustainable operation of PKCT so it's here in the long term,” Mr Gorman said.
“There are some significant risks to that at the moment and we need to be doing everything we can - and having a competitive enterprise agreement is a significant element of that.”
Mr Timbs hit back at those comments, saying “these attacks started on us three years ago, when there was upwards of ten million tonne throughput and coal prices up around US$300”.
“So for him to come out and say he’s done this because the port’s on their knees because of the throughput is just an absolute lie,” he said.
The terminal had a contingency workforce load ships during the lockout so coal exports were not delayed.
Mr Timbs said no further union action was planned.
– with David Marin-Guzman