Thursday 19th Jul, 2018

Maritime Union “outsourcing” picket, Judge rules

Photo: David Sexton
Photo: David Sexton

THE Maritime Union of Australia is “outsourcing to other unions the task of maintaining an illegal picket”, a Victorian judge has ruled.

Justice McDonald of the Supreme Court of Victoria made the comments while adjudicating an application by Victoria International Container Terminal.

VICT successfully sought a continuation of an order for a 100-metre exclusion zone from the terminal gates for the MUA and CFMEU, as well as orders preventing them restricting access to the facility.

A group order also was issued against Victoria Trades Hall secretary Luke Hilakari.

The matter went to court on Monday with Justice McDonald handing down his ruling on Tuesday morning.

Justice McDonald said during a previous court hearing on December 1 there had been insufficient evidence of CFMEU picket involvement, but noted new information including comments by CFMEU secretary John Setka calling ICTSI (VICT’s parent) “a scourge” as well as the presence of a construction union trailer at the picket.

Justice McDonald said he inferred Mr Setka authorised CFMEU involvement and incited others to maintain an “unlawful blockade”.

In regards Mr Hilakari, Justice McDonald noted evidence of him attending the site before and during the picket, as well as insults directed at VICT human resources director Mick O’Leary (a former MUA figure).

Justice McDonald referred to “self-styled activism by Trades Hall Council” and noted that at the Webb Dock rally last week all keynote speakers were from the union movement (apart from Catholic priest Father Bob Maguire), belying suggestions of a community protest.

“The evidence is compelling. The MUA has outsourced to other unions the task of maintaining an illegal picket,” the judge said.

The case was also notable for the involvement of senior workplace relations barristers Stuart Wood QC (VICT) and Herman Borenstein QC (for the unions), the two men having represented opposing sides in the 1998 waterfront dispute.

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There was another twist in the story this week with an argument between the MUA and VICT over the status of the worker central to the argument.

The MUA said the worker had been granted a security clearance by federal authorities.

But a VICT spokesman said the man would not get a Maritime Security Identification Cards as it was conditional on him having a job.

“He does not have a job with us,” the spokesman said, arguing the man had failed to disclose his status during eight months of working with the company.

This triggered an angry response from MUA deputy national secretary Will Tracey.

“When a ship is alongside, workers on each shift without an MSIC are required to sign a general form. This worker signed this form each shift, as did anywhere between six to 12 of his workmates,” Mr Tracey said.

“It wasn’t until three weeks ago that the terminal manager raised the issue that the company had done an audit and found 22 workers without a permit. Only one of these workers was terminated, who also happened to stand up for worker’s rights.”

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