December 5, 2016 / 8:01 PM / 9 months ago

Colombia's Fenoco coal railway, unions extend salary talks

BOGOTA, Dec 5 (Reuters) - Colombia's principal coal railway Fenoco and two unions representing its workers have extended salary negotiations until Dec. 13 after a first round of talks came to an end without an agreement, the company and unions said on Monday.

If a deal is not reached by Dec. 13, workers would meet to decide whether to move toward a strike or continue discussions, Harold Tello, president of Sintraime union told Reuters. He said his union had asked for a 15 percent salary rise.

A strike could stymie coal exports - together the mining companies using the track produce more than half of Colombia's annual output of roughly 85 million tonnes.

"Up to now we haven't arrived at any economic deal. However, we hope to find common ground between the company and union organizations and end with the signature of a collective agreement in the coming days," Fenoco said in a statement.

The first phase of talks between the company and the Sintravifer and Sintraime unions, which represent 459 of 579 workers on the railway, expired in mid-November.

The 226-km (140-mile) Fenoco railway transports around 44 million tonnes of coal annually from mines in Cesar province to Caribbean ports on behalf of U.S.-based Drummond Co, Glencore PLC's Prodeco unit, Murray Energy's Colombia Natural Resources and others.

Some users were forced to declare force majeure in 2012 because a strike prevented shipments on the line.

Colombia is the world's fifth-largest exporter of coal. Its output target for 2016 is 85.5 million tonnes. (Reporting by Luis Jaime Acosta; Writing by Julia Symmes Cobb; Editing by Helen Murphy and Andrew Hay)

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