STRIKING Aurizon coal train drivers have been ordered by the Fair Work Commission to cut short a 24-hour strike called in response to being locked out of their workplace by the company.
As well, the commission has ordered a moratorium on further industrial action until 4pm on Wednesday.
The parties have been ordered to attend a hearing of the commission at 10am on Monday in Newcastle.
Rail, Tram and Bus Union organiser Steve Wright said the moratorium called by the commission had been to stop the company taking retaliatory action against the drivers in the form of a further lockout.
Mr Wright said Aurizon drivers had gone back to work at 4pm on Saturday after the commission ordered a 24-hour ‘‘employee response action’’ cut to 12 hours.
He said he did not believe the coal chain had been harmed by the strike because coal companies had been able to contract Pacific National to haul their coal in place of Aurizon.
The industrial action began last week when about 200 Hunter Valley train drivers went on strike for 48 hours.
Aurizon responded by locking its drivers out for 48 hours, which resulted in the union calling the 24-hour ‘‘employee response action’’ that was cut short by the commission.
Aurizon criticised the union in a full page advertisement in Saturday’s Newcastle Herald, saying the strike action had hurt the local economy.
The union said the company’s protests were hollow, given it had brought on two days of the action itself by locking out workers.
The company defended this by saying it needed to bring matters to a head.
AURIZON coal train drivers have called another strike after being locked out of their workplace since noon on Thursday.
News of the 24-hour strike came at about the same time as the Fair Work Commission called the parties to a conference on Monday.
The 24-hour ‘‘employee response action’’ by members of the Rail, Tram and Bus Union is the latest escalation of a dispute that began with consecutive 24-hour strikes from noon on Tuesday.
Having criticised the industrial action as ‘‘hurting the local economy’’, Aurizon then locked its drivers out for 48hours, arguing it was seeking ‘‘a speedy resolution’’ to an industrial relations ‘‘impasse’’.
But the Rail, Tram and Bus Union said the lockout only ‘‘stoked the conflict’’.
‘‘Any claim that Aurizon has ever made about caring for the economy has been shredded,’’ union secretary Bob Nanva said on Friday.
He said Aurizon had ignored every opportunity to negotiate on the union claim, which was ‘‘eminently affordable’’.
Last year, Aurizon hauled an average of 800,000tonnes of coal a week from 15 mines to the Port of Newcastle.
Industry sources said that only two Aurizon customers, Mount Arthur and Wambo, were able to hire replacement trains from Aurizon’s larger competitor, Pacific National.
The impact on coal exports will depend on the size of coal loader stockpiles at Newcastle.