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Australia's Port Kembla Coal Terminal, Union To Resume Negotiations

MELBOURNE -(Dow Jones)- Operators of Australia's Port Kembla Coal Terminal on the east coast will return to the bargaining table Friday in a bid to agree a new employment agreement and halt a strike that threatens to dent exports, the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union said Thursday. Almost 100 terminal workers walked off the job after the union said the terminal scaled back the conditions it was offering in a new three-and-a-half year employment pact. The terminal has countered that the strike is unnecessary and union's demands are not typical for Australian coal terminals. A spokesman for the union said negotiations would resume Friday morning and that the CFMEU was committed to an outcome that would suit both sides. The terminal, which is managed by BHP Billiton Ltd. (BHP), exports coking and thermal coal from the Southern and Western coalfields of New South Wales state for BHP, Peabody Energy Corp. (BTU), Banpu PCL (BANPU.TH), Gujarat NRE Coking Coal Ltd. (GNM.AU) and Xstrata PLC (XTA.LN). The terminal has offered workers a 4.3% annual wage increase, shy of the 4.5% demanded by the union, which has said talks have faltered over its call for greater job security. The company has said the union wants to extend the agreement to cover middle-management level employees such as accountants and engineers. "Dilution of the workforce with employees not covered by the agreement would make individual workers more vulnerable to management demands, such as working longer hours, the union said in a statement. The CFMEU on Tuesday called off a planned seven-day strike by workers at BHP's West Cliff colliery in New South Wales after it said company management had made concessions during negotiations. The four-month long negotiations are unrelated to the dispute at the Port Kembla terminal. -By Robb M. Stewart, Dow Jones Newswires; +61 3 9292 2094;

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