Hutchison wharfies strike over automation

Wharfies in Sydney and Brisbane walked off the job for 24 hours on Friday (05/04) to protest Hutchison Ports ongoing refusal to move away from outsourcing of jobs and overseas remote controlling of already semi-automated equipment.
“Outsourcing our jobs for greater profit and remote controlling to workers who may be paid $2 per hour will continue to be challenged by the workforce and their union,” Maritime Union of Australia assistant national secretary Warren Smith said.
“Wharfies’ work is wharfies’ work and we will resist every effort to give that work to others regardless of how much or little they are paid, we suspect little in this case.”
The union has had several instances and clear cases of harassment identified in its Brisbane operation, drawing scathing criticism from the Queensland Branch.
MUA QLD assistant branch secretary Paul Petersen said: “This is not a fight about wages, this is a fight for basic conditions, job security and not having our jobs outsourced overseas. It’s about automation and not being replaced by a robot and most importantly it’s about being able to work in a safe environment free from harassment.”
The situation in Sydney has seen the constant and vigilant action of the MUA Sydney Branch save lives in an environment where safety is not treated with the priority it should be by Hutchison Ports.
MUA Sydney branch secretary Paul McAleer said: “Hutchison’s notorious anti-union agenda around the world is attempting to sink the wages and conditions, job security, and health and safety of wharfies in Sydney and Brisbane.
“Their plan to be the budget airways of Australian stevedores seeks to undermine decades of work to create jobs with justice and dignity, all so they can return more profits to one of the richest men on earth.
“The MUA will fight this billionaire for as long as it takes to win an Enterprise Agreement that our members can be proud of.”
Mr Smith blamed Hutchison management for forcing the hand of workers.
“Hutchison has not picked up the phone once to try and schedule meetings despite us having tried to do so,” he said.
“They tell blatant anti-union lies to their workforce to foster division and discontent.
“It’s the same tactics we see from this company all around the world and we’re a wake up to it and will fight it.”

Picketline at Port Botany over Hutchison sackings

A picket line was set up at Port Botany in Sydney after nearly 100 workers were sacked by email.

Last night Hutchison Ports Australia used email to inform the 97 employees their positions had been terminated with no opportunities for redeployment.

40 of those workers are employed at the Port of Brisbane, and 57 are employed at Port Botany.

Employees were told that their final day of work was Friday August 14, but they were not required to attend from August 6 onwards, according to the Daily Telegraph.

I realise that this is a lot of information to take in,” the email read.

“Accordingly you are will not be required to attend work effective immediately.

“We will of course pay you your normal salary to your last date of employment.”

The email also said employees personal effects would be couriered to them.

Hutchison’s gates were blocked by security guards, and ABC reported an altercation started after a security guard told a worker he could not enter to retrieve his possessions.

Police have intervened to keep picketers and security guards away from each other, and border security have also joined to control the situation.

Some 200 employees have picketed Port Botany in support of the terminated workers.

Hutchison blamed the redundancies on several issues, including downsizing of its offerings to Australian customers.

The Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) said it “utterly rejects” claims the company had to reduce its operations due to a lack of competitiveness .

“We believe this is a strategy to increase automation as there are no logical reasons why the company would otherwise give away profitable contracts as they have done recently,” a spokesman for the MUA said.

“The union is seeking a fair and objective process where all labour data and modelling are put on the table to determine the true nature and scope of the problem.”

MUA NSW assistant branch secretary Paul Garrett said the redundancies were related to moves towards automation.

"It's clear that the company's got a move to automate and this is just one of the steps along the way to automating but there shouldn't be any automation without negotiation and they certainly should enter into meaningful discussion with the workers and their union, not just sack them at midnight," he said.

Sacked cranage team leader Craig Hancock said the company had threatened to close down without notice.

"Bottom line is we bent over backwards, we tried our hardest we're a really good workforce…but they're trying to pick on us all the time," he said.

"They've got nastier and nastier…we don't really know why we've been sacked.

"They started threatening us a while ago about 'we'll close down whenever we like', or 'we'll make you redundant for no reason'… they kept saying stuff like that but we kept battling away.”

LMH has approached Hutchison Ports for comment.

Image: ABC

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