Monday 20th Nov, 2017

Industrial strife continues on Newcastle waterfront

Image: Shutterstock
Image: Shutterstock

MARITIME Union of Australia (MUA) members are continuing industrial action at Qube’s Newcastle facility today (September 13) amid a stalemate in enterprise agreement negotiations.

Union members started strikes on Monday and plan to continue through Friday. The Union began taking industrial action in early August when Qube management proposed a 10.5% pay cut as part of the EA negotiations, which have been ongoing for more than two years. Wharfies also walked off the job for 48 hours on August 17.

MUA assistant national secretary Warren Smith said Union members had rejected this and had no option but to take strike action.

“There have now been bans and limitations for around a month and there have been three stoppages and these continue in a rolling fashion for the rest of the week,” he said.

“Newcastle wharfies have been singled out by Qube to cop this absurd pay cut, while 16 other sites across Australia will receive a pay rise.”

A Qube spokesperson told Lloyd’s List Australia that the company’s operations at Newcastle are currently commercially unviable.

“The MUA needs to be truthful about why that is the case,” they said.

The spokesperson went on to point out that Qube had been trying to negotiate a sensible EA with the MUA for two years.

“But at the same time the Union was making pay demands of Qube, it agreed a separate deal with our main competitor Newcastle Stevedoring at pay rates 6% lower than Qube employees currently earn,” the spokesperson said.

“It cost Qube work and now the MUA is demanding further wage increases that would make our operations even more uncompetitive. All we are seeking is sustainable pay rates comparable to the rates the MUA was happy to agree with our competitor.”

Lloyd’s List Australia understands that Qube has offered a two-year wage freeze coupled with the MUA agreeing to other efficiencies.

But, MUA Newcastle branch secretary Glen Williams said the company appears to have the “sinister” intent of terminating the existing enterprise agreement, effectively quashing 25 years of bargaining history.

“These savage pay cuts are a slap in the face to workers who have received no pay rise in the past two years despite considerable productivity increases,” Mr Williams said.

“Our members have no choice but to down tools over this attack on their jobs and standards of living, which we know ultimately is an attempt to scrap their workplace agreement.”

It is understood that this week’s strike has not delayed any ships, but the pickets have caused some minor delays to some truck movements.

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