Serious Incident At Newcastle Coal Terminal Highlights Impact Of Port Waratah Coal Services Intransigence

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A major incident this afternoon at the Port Waratah Coal Services facility in Newcastle has highlighted some of the major safety concerns raised by workers as part of negotiations for a new workplace agreement with the Rio Tinto subsidiary, according to the Maritime Union of Australia.

Between 1pm and 1.30pm today, temporary untrained workers overloaded a hatch while carrying out a coal loading procedure on the bulk carrier Pacific Triangle.

As a result, significant damage was caused to the ship loader, resulting in a backup and spillage of coal onto the vessel and wharf.

“This incident underscores why we believe PWCS must drop its mind-boggling and short-sighted anti-union resistance to a fair workplace agreement that addresses the genuine safety concerns of local workers,” MUA national assistant secretary Ian Bray said.

“Not only is the lack of an agreement putting peoples' lives at risk, PWCS is sacrificing the interests of its customers who will watch their profits dribble away just as the coal poured off the Pacific Triangle today.

“It is also imperative that the Australian Maritime Safety Authority conduct a vessel safety inspection to see that the clean up is done satisfactorily and the integrity of the ship has not been breached.”

Mr Bray called for an investigation into the incident to be carried out by safety representatives elected by the local workforce. He also demanded that WorkCover NSW fulfill its regulatory responsibility by taking an active role on the scene in the wake of this serious incident.

MUA Newcastle Branch secretary Glen Williams said the union was seriously concerned that temporary staff brought in while workers took protected action were not capable of carrying out the work safely.

“The union has raised concerns about the competency of staff performing our members' roles whilst our members were taking protected industrial action,” Mr Williams said.

“This incident confirms our concerns about the real threats posed to safety at the PWCS facility.”

Talks between union members and PWCS have seen more than ten months of negotiations.

The ongoing negotiations between unions and PWCS have produced over 50 agreed changes to the current enterprise agreement that will deliver further productivity and flexibility at the world's biggest coal export terminal.

The single bargaining unit representing workers comprises the Maritime Union of Australia, the Transport Workers Union, the Electrical Trade Union, and the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union.

(This media release was put out on: Thursday, 18 July 2013)


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