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SYDNEY, Feb 8 AAP

February 08 2013, 6:24PM

Pacific Coal has slammed a union for pulling its members off the job, saying the 48-hour strike action will not resolve a pay dispute while irreversibly damaging the NSW economy.

Rail, Tram and Bus Union (RTBU) members employed at the coal haulage business stopped work at noon (AEDT) on Friday following the collapse of negotiations over a new enterprise bargaining agreement (EBA).

About 800 workers, including train drivers and terminal operators, are striking at Pacific National, Australia's largest private rail freight business.

The union has been negotiating with Pacific National for more than 12 months.

Pacific National Coal Director David Irwin said the industrial action was both avoidable and unnecessary, and would do nothing to resolve the EBA negotiations.

"The RTBU's stoppage will do nothing other than harm the coal industry, our employees and the NSW economy through lost exports, lost employee earnings, lost Government royalty revenue and damage to the coal industry delivery reputation," Mr Irwin said in a statement.

"It needs to be understood that the 600,000 tonnes of delivered coal lost as a result of this action cannot be recovered in the future.

"NSW Coal Chains operate at maximum capacity every day of the week, meaning these losses are real."

Pacific Coal estimates the lost exports are worth an estimated $50 million to the NSW economy and approximately $3.91 million per day in royalties to the NSW government.

Mr Irwin said the company's offer of consent arbitration "remains on the table".

Earlier, RTBU national secretary Bob Nanva said the company had forced the union into taking the industrial action.

"Pacific National have refused to budge despite 290 days having passed since negotiations began," Mr Nanva told AAP.

"This is about more than just the EBA, this is about the right of these men and women to collectively bargain and have their voices heard."

Pacific National's major customers include Xstrata and Whitehaven Coal, who have cut workers recently and are considering legal action against the union if the strike affects income.

Pacific National hauls 70 per cent of the state's coal, but other rail companies and coal producers will also be affected by trains standing idle on lines.