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.”

Hutchison to be hit with wharf strike

Workers employed by Hutchison Ports in Sydney and Brisbane have voted to commence broad-ranging industrial action, accusing the company of launching the most severe attack on waterfront conditions in a generation, the Maritime Union of Australia said.
The protected action ballot of Hutchison Ports workers from Port Botany and the Port of Brisbane, conducted by the Australian Electoral Commission, recorded 98.4 per cent support among union members for a series of rolling work stoppages, along with a range of other actions. The first round of industrial action, involving bans and limitations, will commence on Thursday 17 January.
Negotiations over a new workplace agreement covering Hutchison Ports workers in Sydney and Brisbane reached a stalemate, the MUA said, after the company “refused to back away from plans to slash wages and conditions, along with automating some roles and outsourcing other jobs”.
The Maritime Union of Australia said the company’s demands include: a 2.5 per cent cut to superannuation; reductions to sick and parental leave; cuts to redundancy and long service leave; removal of income protection; wage cuts of up to $10 per hour followed by a wage freeze; and reductions to safety standards, including the loss of full-time first aiders and removal of personal protective equipment.
MUA assistant national secretary Warren Smith said the attempt by this multi-national port operator “to slash the pay and conditions of Australian workers left them with no choice but to take industrial action.
“The world’s largest stevedore, the same company that sacked 97 workers by text message in 2015, is now telling its Australian workforce that it wants to slash their wages and conditions,” Mr Smith said.
“If Hutchison gets its way, waterfront workers would be left 26 per cent worse off in retirement based on the company’s planned cuts to their superannuation entitlements, while redundancy payments would be halved for the average worker, as would long service leave.
“Not content to attack wages and conditions, Hutchison Ports are going after the safety of their workers, with a push to remove the full-time first-aiders who provide potentially life-saving treatment in an emergency, along with taking away basic personal protective equipment.
“On top of that, they want to cut wages by up to $10 per hour, impose a 12 month wage freeze, with pay rises of just 1 per cent a year after that.
“Our members refuse to sit back and watch as four-decades of hard-won conditions are stripped away by a greedy multi-national whose only concern is maximising its own profits.
“We will not accept an agreement that rips us off and reduces our standard of living, and the MUA is committed to using every industrial and legal tool at our disposal in our fight to protect conditions and safety standards on the waterfront.
“The actions Hutchison Ports highlight exactly why the Australian union movement has launched the Change the Rules campaign, to challenge the actions of big corporations who are increasingly using the broken workplace laws to attack the conditions of working people.”
 

Fuel security: why is there none? 

The Maritime Union of Australia has again drawn attention on the Morrison Government’s refusal to act on fuel security after years of warnings, with new figures showing Australia now has just 22 days of petrol and 17 days of diesel at its disposal.
Australia has been non-compliant with the International Energy Agency’s 90-day fuel stockholding obligation since March 2012 and the current government has since ignored several key reports.
For example, a National Energy Security Assessment was announced last April. It was sparked by concerns over declining domestic production, diminishing refining capacity and concerns over potential flashpoints in the Middle East, South China Sea and Korean Peninsula.
However, nothing has been done since then and a report in today’s Australian newspaper said the new figures have again sparked warnings from Coalition MP and security experts that the nation is dangerously exposed if a major geopolitical upheaval disrupts existing supply routes.
The newspaper said experts have also criticised a government move to spend more than $20 million buying supplies held offshore to bolster the national reserve, saying the move will do little to boost the resilience of the domestic fuel stockpile.
MUA national secretary Paddy Crumlin said a number of inquiries and reports in recent years have focused on the important issue of fuel security, including the MUA’s report titled ‘Australia’s Fuel Security – Running on Empty’ in December last year, written by shipping expert John Francis.
“The Senate has held inquiries into both fuel security and tax avoiding flag-of-convenience shipping, while the Energy White Paper and Defence White Paper also investigated our increasing reliance on foreign fuel,” Mr Crumlin said.
“It’s doubling up on the government’s initial policy negligence in allowing Australia to lose its refinery capacity of oil we own and is sourced in our country, and then allow tax avoidance and dodgy shipping governance to replace our domestic shipping capacity. No one has been at the wheel of energy security in Canberra for a very long time. It’s a joke with very few laughs for Australian jobs, economic independence and long term planning.
“In addition, the ‘Running on Empty’ report found that Australia now relies on the equivalent of almost 60 full-time fuel import tankers to keep us supplied with petrol, diesel and jet fuel, which is now all carried on the international spot market, mainly from Korea, Singapore and Japan.
“The report found Australia’s reliance on foreign flagged tankers removes any opportunity for the Commonwealth to be able to requisition national flag tankers if necessary to secure minimum import or coastal distribution requirements following major economic or geopolitical disruptions.
“The cost of addressing this risk is comparatively low: even carrying Australia’s entire import volume on a fleet of Australian tankers would cost less than one extra cent per litre.
“The Australian government needs support as a matter of urgency a number of Australian tankers as part of a national strategic fleet to ensure that some level of supplies can be maintained in the event of a crisis.”
Mr Crumlin said there are now no Australian-crewed tankers supplying fuel to our nation, down from 12 in the year 2000. At the same time, the number of refineries has halved to four. This means we now import more than 90 per cent of our fuel and that number is rising.
“Australians would expect our Government to have a better plan and this would involve more refining here and Australian-crewed ships to carry it around the coast,” he said.
“This isn’t only a matter of fuel security but also national security. Unlike Australian seafarers, foreign crews have no background checks yet they are carrying petroleum products, ammonium nitrate and LNG around the Australian coast.”

Fuel security: how long would we have?

A potential crisis caused by the nation’s lack of strategic fuel reserves and over-reliance on foreign petroleum supplies could be addressed by restoring a fleet of Australian-owned tankers, according to a new report.
Written by maritime consultant John Francis, former director of the Maritime Transport Policy Centre at the Australian Maritime College, Australia’s Fuel Security: Running on Empty examines solutions to the risk of the nation grinding to a halt if fuel supplies are impacted by a global economic shock or conflict along major trade routes.
Commissioned by the Maritime Union of Australia, the report provides a detailed estimate of the number of tankers required to maintain supplies, along with the cost, per litre, of using Australian-owned and crewed tankers.
The report warns that Australia’s reliance on foreign flagged tankers “removes any opportunity for the Commonwealth to be able to requisition national flag tankers if necessary to secure minimum import or coastal distribution requirements following major economic or geopolitical disruptions to oil markets… ”
“The cost of addressing this risk is comparatively low: even carrying Australia’s entire import volume on a fleet of Australian tankers would cost less than one extra cent per litre.”
The report outlines major industry and policy shifts that have seen Australia go from producing and refining most of its fuel needs at the turn of the century, to an overwhelming reliance on foreign imports. Last financial year, 91 per cent of Australia’s refined petroleum was imported or produced from imported oil, while more than half involved ‘just-in-time shipments’ on vessels carrying finished petrol, diesel, jet fuel and other products. Of the 677 tankers that visited Australia in 2017, not one was owned, managed or crewed by Australians.
It also highlights the fact that Australia is the only International Energy Agency member country that fails to meet its 90-day fuel stockholding obligation, which has been the case since early 2012, with government statistics showing fuel reserves are generally less than three weeks.
Mr Francis produced detailed costings, per litre of cargo, for a range of scenarios involving the use of tankers owned, managed and crewed by Australians, finding this additional cost could be spread across the entire import volume to provide a “very modest cost per litre.
“The cost of five Australian ships spread across the projected import volume … in 2018-19 results in a cost of less than one-tenth of a cent per litre.
“Even if the whole future import volume covered by 60 ships, the cost is less than 1 cent per litre,” he found.
With more than 90 per cent of petroleum products shipped to Australia on foreign tankers — much of it through potential conflict zones — MUA deputy national secretary Will Tracey said Australia was sleepwalking into a major fuel security crisis.
“The government’s own statistics show that across Australia we have less than three weeks of fuel reserves,” Mr Tracey said.
“In the worst case scenario, a major economic crisis or a conflict that disrupts the supply chain — such as in the South China Sea — could cut fuel supplies, leaving us with just three weeks in reserve before transport systems collapse, food supplies are impacted, and essential services cut.
“At the turn of the century, there were 12 Australian-owned tankers supplying our fuel needs, but this entire fleet has been lost, replaced with an almost-total reliance on foreign imports of crude and refined petroleum products.
“In May, the Turnbull government finally announced a National Energy Security Assessment would be undertaken to examine declining domestic production, diminishing refining capacity, and the risks posed by potential flashpoints in the Middle East and South China Sea.
“To be comprehensive, this risk assessment must also examine the risk of relying entirely on foreign-flagged vessels, rather than having tankers owned, managed and crewed by Australians.
“This report, by a leading maritime expert, shows that this is an extremely cost-effective option that would improve fuel security while having an imperceptible impact on prices.”
A copy of “Australia’s fuel security: It’s running on empty” is available here.

Inland Rail funding could be spent on shipping, says MUA

The Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) has stated that it feels that some of the money earmarked for the $8.4 billion Melbourne-to-Brisbane Inland Rail project could be better spent on investment in Australia’s coastal shipping sector.
MUA National Secretary Paddy Crumlin said that while the MUA agrees Australia should be trying to get trucks off the roads, the sea offers the best alternative.
“Port infrastructure already exists in Australia and coastal shipping leaves the lowest carbon footprint when it comes to moving goods around our coast,” Crumlin said.
“This package from the Government looks a lot like pork-barrelling by the Coalition to protect their inland seats through regional Victoria, NSW and Queensland as they desperately try to stave off the threat from One Nation and other parties.”
“A strong domestic shipping fleet makes absolute sense from a national security, fuel security, and environmental standpoint,” Crumlin added.

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

Rally planned at PWCS as strike action continues

The long running industrial dispute at the Port of Newcastle is set to continue as coal terminal workers walk off the job again today.

Hundreds of workers will rally at Kooragang Island opposite the Port Waratah Coal Services terminals this afternoon.

Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) assistant secretary Ian Bray has again stated the union's long-standing position that the goal is to reach a fair deal.

"We are determined to reach an agreement, hopefully through productive discussions with the company," Bray said.

While MUA Newcastle branch secretary Glen Williams underscored that the membership of the union is solidly behind continued action.

 “Our members, who have made this terminal highly productive and operated in a framework of harmonious labour relations for many years, continue to be greatly disappointed that the company’s continued belligerence and attacks on job security are standing in the way of a fair deal,” Williams said.

Strike action by workers at the site has seen more than 85 hours of stoppages since May 15.

The dispute between workers and PWCS has been running for over 12 months.

MUA branch secretary Mick Forbes said PWCS wants to change enterprise bargaining clauses related to dispute settlement and contracting.

Forbes described the proposed changes as “union busting”.

The MUA claim anti-union proposals in the new agreements seek to undermine the safety and health of workers and tear up longstanding settlement procedures around contract issues.

PWCS has previously told LMH it was hopeful a resolution would be reached.

“There is nothing that PWCS is proposing or seeking to negotiate in the new agreement that does not respect the rights of employees to belong to a union, or to be represented collectively,” he said.

The spokesman said contingency plans are in place to mitigate impacts to the local supply chain.

Chief executive of PWCS  Hennie du Plooy has said though he was ‘disappointed’ by continued industrial action by unions at the coal terminal, strikes had not affected the operation of the Hunter Valley Coal Chain.

Two day strikes for Newcastle coal terminal

The bitter industrial dispute at the Port of Newcastle has deepened as workers at Port Waratah Coal Services go on strike for two days.

Union members working at Port Waratah Coal Services first voted to take industrial action in early May after a meeting between the unions and PWCS failed to resolve a ten month dispute over new enterprise agreements.

More than 200 Port Waratah Coal Services workers voted to take action.

The Maritime Union of Australia first warned that it would take industrial action in the form of indefinite stoppage of overtime and a ban on shift changeovers on Sunday.

However action quickly escalated to extended work stoppages of 12 and 24 hour strikes.

MUA Australia branch secretary Mick Forbes said PWCS wants to change enterprise bargaining clauses related to dispute settlement and contracting.

Forbes described the proposed changes as “union busting”.

The MUA claim anti-union proposals in the new agreements seek to undermine the safety and health of workers and tear up longstanding settlement procedures around contract issues.

The new round of strike action will start today and tomorrow, the 7th and 8th of June, starting at 8pm on both days and stretch through the night shift until 4am.

MUA Newcastle branch secretary Glen Williams said the decision by workers to take action shows the strength of the workforce.

“PWCS continues to pursue an anti-union, anti worker approach to these negotiations in the face of a wall of unity and solidarity,” Williams said.

“The company needs to finally understand that these workers will not break.”

“It’s time the company came back to the table and ceased its campaign to wind back the rights of its employees.”

Williams added that while the unions and workers were willing to take strike action, they continue to seek a negotiated agreement.

PWCS told Australian Mining the company had been open in its negotiations.

“PWCS has been negotiating in good faith since July last year,” the spokesperson said.

“There is nothing that PWCS is proposing or seeking to negotiate in the new agreement that does not respect the rights of employees to belong to a union, or to be represented collectively.”

The spokesman said contingency plans are in place to mitigate impacts to the local supply chain.

Image: secretaryofinnovation.com

Coal terminal workers walk off the job

 

More than 200 workers at Port Waratah Coal Services walked off the job this morning as part of an eight hour strike as a long running dispute over new enterprise agreements continue.

The Maritime Union of Australia said the stop-work action would take place from 6:30am to 2:30pm.

Today’s action follows a four hour stoppage earlier this month.

The union has also announced plans to take part in 24-hour strikes on May 29 if an agreement cannot be reached.

Maritime Union of Australia branch secretary Mick Forbes said PWCS wants to change enterprise bargaining clauses related to dispute settlement and contracting

Forbes described the proposed changes as “union busting”.

The MUA claim anti-union proposals in the new agreements seek to undermine the safety and health of workers and tear up longstanding settlement procedures around contract issues.

“Unfortunately, despite our continued commitment to reach an agreement, we don’t think the company is getting the message,” MUA assistant national secretary Ian Bray said.

“So we are stepping up our campaign of legally protected action whilst continuing every effort to reach a deal.”

Australian Manufacturing Workers Union spokesman Daniel Wallace is hopeful meetings over the next week with management will resolve the dispute, ABC reported.

"We've been in negotiations for the past eight months," he said.

"We've had about 50 meetings with management .

"We managed to resolve some issues yesterday but the main sticking points are still there.

"Hopeful over the next week we may be able to resolve the dispute."

PWCS told LMH the company had been open in its negotiations.

“PWCS has been negotiating in good faith since July last year,” the spokesperson said.

“There is nothing that PWCS is proposing or seeking to negotiate in the new agreement that does not respect the rights of employees to belong to a union, or to be represented collectively.”

The spokesman said contingency plans are in place should the strikes go ahead to mitigate impacts to the local supply chain.

 

Union calling for coronial inquest into death in harbour

The Maritime Union of Australia has launched a petition calling for a coronial inquest into the death of a seafarer in Gladstone two years ago.

Captain Dudley Jacobs was killed when the tug Adonis capsized on June 11, 2011.

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau found the tug capsized after an operator error.

However the MUA say the investigation ignored operator Sea Swift's "total disregard for basic safety processes" and failed to hold anyone responsible for the tragedy, Daily Mercury reported.

ATSB chief commissioner Martin Dolan said his bureau could not assign blame but would pass on its work to the coroner if necessary.

The MUA said the Sea Swift tug was contracted by Bechtel when Jacobs died.

The union said it is shocked that Sea Swift still operated in the harbour and neither company had been held to account over the death.

Jason Hines, Gladstone MUA organiser, said a seafarer involved in the tragedy supported the push for an inquest.

"We've got 300 members in Gladstone alone. They all want the coroner onto this," Miners said.

"Even non-members, people who knew Dudley and were at his funeral, say it's got to happen."

"It is crystal clear to us … that we need a much more systematic, thorough investigation into the events prior to the incident and leading up to the capsizing of the Adonis," he said.

Miners said the ATSB report acknowledged alterations had been made to the tug, which may have affected its stability.

"That's clearly the fault of the operator – why haven't they been held to account?" he said.

"Captain Jacobs' family deserve better, and the people who work at Gladstone deserve to know that future working conditions will achieve the highest level of safety so this does not happen again," he said.

"What requirements did Bechtel put on Sea Swift before they awarded the contract, and what did the safety management systems and surveyor's reports find about the vessel's stability?"

A Bechtel spokesman said he could not comment on the report.

"This was a tragic incident. But we can't comment on the outcomes of the report because we weren't involved in the investigation nor mentioned in the resulting publication."

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