A group of 250 Pilbara train drivers for BHP Billiton have endorsed a union wage deal that does not guarantee them annual pay rises.

In a sign the heat has come out of the resource sector, the workers caved in to employer demands for annual performance-based pay rises instead of guaranteed increases.

The deal bucks widespread fears of a wages blow-out following the recent return of unions in the mining sector to the negotiating table.

The four-year agreement - set to be registered this week - comes after 18 months of bitter wrangling between the mining division of the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union and BHP Billiton.

The train drivers had rejected a similar offer last September when they stood by demands for pay rises of between 4 per cent and 5 per cent across the board each year.

At the time, they said they feared the mining giant could unfairly punish some individuals on a whim.

In their original demands, the train drivers had also sought an extra four hours' leave in every swing to compensate them for travel time, which would have added an extra week or two to their annual leave each year. They had also wanted cheap residential housing in the Pilbara.

The endorsed package did not include any extra time off or cheap housing but did allow for a 2 per cent hike in either their commute allowance or their residential allowance.

Head of the mining division of the CFMEU, Gary Wood, said the increase in this allowance was worth about $2500 a year for each worker.

Mr Wood said he did not consider the deal a win for the employer because it was supported by 86 per cent of the workforce.

"At the end of the day, workers determine whether there is sufficient comfort in the agreement without the guaranteed increases," Mr Wood said.

"You have to ask, do you have a blue or are you comfortable with the agreement?

"Obviously they chose the latter, even though in a perfect world you would have guaranteed increases."

Mr Wood said the workers had shown they were responsible by staging genuine negotiations and did not take industrial action.

A spokeswoman for BHP Billiton welcomed the deal, which marked the second union agreement for its train drivers.

"BHP Billiton is pleased that a new agreement has been agreed for our locomotive drivers," she said.

Global transport commentator Christian Wolmar last year said Pilbara train drivers who earned as much as $240,000 a year were global salary leaders.

The West Australian

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