THE MUA division of the CFMMEU and the Port of Newcastle are at odds over who will operate the port’s new bulk unloader.

The MUA called a port-wide stoppage today to discuss what Newcastle Branch secretary Glen Williams says is PoN’s move to “effectively marginalise every stevedore in the port, create job insecurity and casualisation for wharfies and the local community”.

The union is objecting to what it claims is the “privatised” port authority’s determination to exclude members from driving the new bulk unloader, and to erode port service workers’ rights and conditions as part of enterprise agreement bargaining.

However, a PoN spokesperson said the company was investing an unprecedented (post-privatisation) $35 million in the state-of-the-art ship unloader, for improved safety, environmental and efficiency outcomes.

“Stevedore employees experience a high degree of casualisation. Port of Newcastle is interested in creating a number of full-time positions for wharf and crane operators that would provide workers with greater job security and the education and training required to support the operation of the new ship unloader,” the spokesperson said.

“Port of Newcastle has initiated discussions with the MUA regarding the project. While the parties have met on three occasions to discuss the project, these discussions are at a very early stage.”

The port also noted it does not currently have an Enterprise Agreement with the MUA for wharf operations.

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MUA assistant national secretary Warren Smith said the union was demanding the withdrawal of the plan to exclude wharfies from their current work.

“Management must also consult with stakeholders to ensure any new equipment in the Port of Newcastle is designed to improve overall port productivity, but not at the expense of the working people of Newcastle and their community,” Mr Smith said.

“We won’t go away. We will fight this.”

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