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Rail union says Pacific National has locked them out of coal trains 'indefinitely'

Pacific National train drivers at Hunter Workers after a mass meeting and before a Fair Work Commission hearing inside on their dispute with Pacific National. Picture by Ian Kirkwood
Pacific National train drivers at Hunter Workers after a mass meeting and before a Fair Work Commission hearing inside on their dispute with Pacific National. Picture by Ian Kirkwood

THE Rail, Tram and Bus Union says the biggest rail freight company in the NSW coal industry, Pacific National, has "locked out a major section of its workforce" from midnight last night.

A meeting of RTBU members in relation to the "lockout" was scheduled for lunchtime today (Thursday) in Newcastle.

Although PN has disputed the term "lockout" the Newcastle Herald understands that few if any coal trains are running in the Hunter and that the company, rather than the union, has told staff not to drive.

RTBU locomotive division secretary Farren Campbell said the move would impact Pacific National's bulk and coal trains across the state.

Mr Campbell said the RTBU and Pacific National (PN) had been negotiating for a new enterprise agreement.

The union had a series of protected industrial action, including a refusal to work on trains that failed to meet minimum safety standards".

Although a person answering the phone at PN told the Herald there was "no lockout" in the formal sense, a union spokesperson said that the drivers were told that "if you are not going to drive some trains, you won't be driving any".

The spokesperson said the "safety standards" had been agreed on by the company and the Australian rail safety regulator, and inspections had shown more trains than expected had failed those standards.

Mr Campbell said the company response was "a shockingly low act against workers who were simply demanding the rail company meet its minimum safety standards".

"This is an outrageous attack on Pacific National's workforce and will have an impact on the movement of freight right across the state," Mr Campbell said.

"Pacific National workers are willing and able to work, but the company is refusing to let them.

"We're hopeful common-sense will soon prevail and the rail company will let its workforce get back to doing what they do best - moving our goods across the country."

This story will be updated as more information comes to hand.

A scene from a previous dispute between the Rail, Tram and Bus Union and Pacific National on Industrial Drive, Mayfield, in 2017. Picture by Max Mason-Hubers
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