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THE MARITIME Union of Australia has lashed out against Darwin Port for the second time this week amid talks of pay cuts and a potential industrial dispute.

MUA deputy national secretary Warren Smith suggested on Monday that Darwin Port was effectively planning to cut its workers’ wages under a new employment agreement.

He said the port was offering staff a 2% pay rise where the Fair Work Commission had recently boosted the national minimum wage by just over 5% to deal with inflation.

The MUA had spoken of a looming industrial dispute and of balloting its membership to gather a democratic mandate for industrial action.

It is understood workers preferred to resolve the disagreement peacefully before turning to industrial action. Nonetheless, and according to the MUA, Darwin Ports had lodged a dispute with the Fair Work Commission to halt the balloting process.

On Tuesday, Darwin Port acting CEO Peter Dummett rejected the suggestion the company had sought to cut workers’ pay.

Mr Dummett told DCN the port valued its staff, and that its preferred position was to reach “a negotiated and fair outcome for all parties”.

He confirmed Darwin Port had engaged the Fair Work Commission to “assist in constructively progressing the negotiations”.

But on Wednesday evening, the MUA asserted Darwin Port management had misrepresented the state of the relationship between the company and its workers.

“Sadly, the managers of Darwin Ports have chosen to further undermine any trust or goodwill which remained between themselves and the workers by issuing a statement that is heavy on spin and light on the truth,” Mr Smith said in a statement.

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He also challenged the company’s claim that it was working toward a fair outcome.

“Interestingly, the CEO has not shown his face once during this bargaining period, but he sees fit to make public statements about a process he won’t directly participate in,” Mr Smith said.

“If Mr Dummett and the company truly value their employees, they’ll come back to the negotiating table with a wage offer that takes in to account both the contribution and hard work of their employees as well as the rampant inflation that is diminishing all workers’ purchasing power.”

A significant source of concern for the MUA is the impact of inflation on workers and the increased cost of living.

“Workers must not be asked to pay twice for the rampant profiteering being engaged in by the Australian business sector, both through their household expenses and with an effective wage cut from their employers,” Mr Smith said.

“Darwin Ports workers kept the port working during COVID, they have worked harder and longer in the face of staff cutbacks and have lifted productivity through multi-skilling, but none of this is being recognised or rewarded by the employer,” he said.

“Darwin Ports’ position through all of this is that their workforce should work harder and longer for less money, and that is something that we simply do not accept.

“This is a pretty shabby way to manage a business or to show your workforce that you ‘value’ them.”

Darwin Port declined to comment further on the story.

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