Hutchison Ports Australia (HPA) have submitted a savage log of claims which would decimate conditions of wharfies at its Sydney and Brisbane terminals.
The company is seeking to outsource jobs, eliminate the fixed roster, force a longer working week from a 30 hour week to 35-42 hour week, cut pay by regrading the jobs, implement a 12 month wage freeze, cease to pay for meal times, force mandatory overtime, introduce minimum shifts of just four hours, and abolish long service leave. These are just some of hundreds of claims.
In a major attack, Hutchison want to outsource key roles. These include shift leader, bus driver and first aider, mooring and unmooring operations in Brisbane, operating cranes (ASCs) that load trucks and monitoring refrigerated reefer containers. The latter are two of the four core jobs currently done by Hutchison wharfies. The company also wants to completely automate the stacking cranes, which would inevitably mean shedding jobs. They haven’t ruled out outsourcing the crane operator positions to Hong Kong.
Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) wharfies have voted to reject every single claim and are preparing for a big fight. Hutchison say that as the stevedoring company with the smallest market share in Australia they face a “tough commercial environment”. But they are one of the largest stevedoring companies in the world, with 52 terminals globally. In 2015 they tried to sack half their workforce, but a year later they were expanding and hiring a new intake of 120 people at the Sydney terminal.
The workforce is demanding better conditions and higher safety standards across the board, after a near-fatal accident earlier in the year. Claims include a permanent safety facilitator elected from the workforce, and on-the-job training to be carried out by qualified wharfies. Another demand is a fixed roster for all workers. Currently, half the workforce receives work orders via a text message only one day in advance. Living by the phone is a nightmare for work-life balance, especially for families.
The current EBA will expire in November. After that, “protected” industrial action can take place over the terms of the new agreement. This will coincide with EBA negotiations at neighbouring terminal DP World. We have immense power across the waterfront.
The major Change the Rules union rally on 23 October provides an opportunity to show port bosses we are ready to fight by yet again shutting down all three terminals on the waterfront. The MUA will march behind banners demanding the right to strike, a right we will need to exercise during the bargaining campaign. We should be prepared to walk off the job even if the company won’t agree to a four-hour shut down, as they have for previous rallies.