UPDATE 2-Australian iron ore trade faces labour unrest as boom fades
* Tugboat workers back strike plan at huge iron ore port
* Strike would cripple half of Australia's iron ore exports
* Iron ore is Australia's top export earner
* Coal sector also faces dispute (Recasts, adds iron ore trader, coal dispute )
By Sonali Paul
MELBOURNE, May 12 (Reuters) - Tugboat workers at Australia's main iron ore port threaten to hold a strike that could halt a quarter of the world's iron ore exports and cost miners $100 million a day, just as the industry battles to slash costs and get more out of its workers.
The dispute comes as resource firms say Australia has become far more expensive than other locations as a now maturing project construction boom, driven by Chinese demand, led to fat pay packets and lavish conditions.
In some outback mines, for example, workers are flown back and forth from resort-like housing, while cooks and laundry hands at some gas projects can earn as much as A$350,000 ($327,200) year.
Tugboat deckhands at Port Hedland, used by Australia's second- and third-largest iron ore producers, on Monday approved a plan to go on strike for one, two or seven days if they are unable to resolve a dispute over vacation and pay. Continuación...