04/08/2022 - 15:31

Qube navigates $15m union wages claim

04/08/2022 - 15:31

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Qube has vowed to defend a $15.5 million lawsuit it’s facing at the hands of the maritime union over claims it unlawfully docked the wages of up to 1,000 stevedores.

Qube navigates $15m union wages claim
Qube told Business News the company had received the claim and was reviewing the details, but confirmed it intended to defend the claim. Photo: Gabriel Oliveira

Fremantle Port operator Qube has vowed to defend a $15.5 million lawsuit it’s facing at the hands of the maritime union over claims it unlawfully docked the wages of up to 1,000 stevedores.

According to documents obtained by Business News, the CFMMEU has launched a Federal Court action on behalf of its maritime arm claiming the logistics giant made wage deductions over a six-year period in breach of the Fair Work Act.

The case centres around the interpretation of enterprise agreements governed how three classifications of employee, about 1,000 workers, were paid.

Though the workers were paid hourly, under the deal, they were entitled to a minimum guaranteed payment fortnightly.

The agreements allegedly contained deduction clauses allowing workers to receive whichever of the two was greater - the minimum guarantee or their actual earnings.

According to the statement of claim, if the worker's earnings did not meet the minimum threshold, the difference would be deducted from their next pay period.

But the EA clause was allegedly amended in 2021 to allow Qube to deduct from the workers’ earnings in any subsequent pay period and recoup the hours not worked to meet the minimum guarantee.

In the statement of claim, however, CFMMEU insists that on the proper construction of the agreement, the 'hours not worked guarantee' does not roll beyond one pay cycle.

The CFMMEU claims Qube Ports director Michael Sousa refuted the interpretation in private correspondence with a maritime union officer, telling the union the interpretation would have catastrophic implications for Qube’s financial viability.

Further, the MUA alleges it was told Qube would have no choice but to conduct a wholesale review of its employee classifications.

Now, the CFMMEU is claiming the deductions were made without the authorisation of employees and that Mr Sousa statements constituted a threat to dismiss the employees or alter their position, warranting the return of funds totalling $15.5 million.

A spokesperson from Qube told Business News the company had received the claim and was reviewing the details, but confirmed it intended to defend the claim.

“The claim appears to relate to payments made for hours that were not worked by some classifications of employee,” the spokesperson said.

“Qube believes that we have met our obligations under the applicable enterprise agreements and long standing accepted industry practice. 

“We believe the claim has no merit and we intend to defend the claim.”

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