24/06/2021 - 15:45

Port strike to escalate

24/06/2021 - 15:45

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Freo port workers will strike tomorrow at the inner harbour as part of an escalating industrial battle.

Port strike to escalate
Fremantle is the state's major import port. Photo: Gabriel Oliveira

Freo port workers will strike tomorrow at the inner harbour as part of an escalating industrial battle.

Workers at the Fremantle Ports outer harbour had been striking as part of an enterprise bargaining negotiation. 

The Maritime Union of Australia claims work groups participating in stoppages had been stood down by Fremantle Ports for five-hour periods, consequently not earning pay when striking.

The latest action will last 24 hours, beginning at 10am on Friday, and will stop vessels being tied up or let go from the wharves.

Separately, the union said 100 workers at the port had been underpaid since 2014, although Business News understands this is subject to a court battle.

It’s not the only industrial dispute affecting the state government has faced in recent weeks, with Western Power workers striking as they sought to make claims the company said would cost about $31 million.

Maritime Union of Australia WA Assistant Branch Secretary Jeff Cassar said tomorrow’s strike would bring the dispute to a head.

“Workers at the Kwinana Bulk Terminal have been suffering serious financial hardship due to Fremantle Ports’ decision to stand down all workers any time a workgroup undertakes lawful industrial action, essentially shutting the terminal for five hours a day,” Mr Cassar said.

“Workers were simply exercising their legal rights as part of negotiations for a new enterprise agreement that reflects industry standards, yet Fremantle Ports response has been aggressive, heavy-handed, and threatens to cause significant port delays.”

A spokesperson for Fremantle Ports said the business had been in good faith negotiations for 18 months, with limited progress made.

“The stand-down was a direct consequence of the targeted industrial action instituted by the MUA,” the spokesperson said. 

“As a result of the industrial action, employees had no useful work to undertake and were therefore stood down. 

“The union challenged the right of the port to implement the stand-down in the Fair Work Commission and sought payment for the periods of time employees were not working. 

“The port did not accept this position. 

“The MUA discontinued their claim for payments during the stand-down period on 16 June, by filing a notice of discontinuance at the Fair Work Commission.”

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