Day 102: Hutchison Workers Back Through the Gate

After more than 100 days since 97 wharfies were sacked in the dead of night, an agreement between the workers and container terminal operator Hutchison has been achieved.

A new agreement was voted up in both Sydney and Brisbane today, which will see every worker go back through the gate if they with. As part of the agreement, the union won an extremely handsome redundancy package which will be offered on a purely voluntary basis.

National Secretary and ITF President Paddy Crumlin, who led the talks with the company in the Fair Work Commission, said the new agreement was testament to a more functional and mature approach to industrial relations than the company’s initial attempts to restructure their operations.

“Workers are essential to the productivity and good health of any successful enterprise, and have a social and legal right to be treated with respect and decency regardless of commercial cycles,” Mr Crumlin said.

“Large multi national companies have a particular responsibility, due to their scale and inherent power to have special regard to their treatment of their workers, and should meet the highest standards of meeting those moral responsibilities.

“What started out as a shabby and mean spirited and heartbreaking attack on an innocent workforce by Hutchinson has been translated through the slow building of respect and proper involvement of those workers and the Fair Work Commission under Deputy President Anna Booth,” he said referring to the fact the 97 wharfies were originally sacked by text and email a couple of minutes shy of midnight. 

“It became notorious internationally for how not to restructure a business.

“It hopefully sends a strong signal to other big maritime multinationals in the maritime industry in this country  at the moment  like BHP, Alcoa and Chevron that they are diminished and devalued by the workplace policies of subterfuge and industrial and legal harassment of their workers as a preferred course of action. And that workers will not stop fighting for their rights and the genuine respect from these companies for those rights.”

MUA Assistant National Secretary Warren Smith said it was a momentous occasion that could not have been achieved without the resilience and struggle of all Hutchison workers.

“The agreement is a major victory for the MUA and all Hutchison workers,” Mr Smith said.

“The key components of the former agreement have been retained. The new agreement has cemented the best safety clauses in the industry - in fact any industry. This agreement is a step forward for workers and delivers a victory of common sense over anti-worker ideology,” Mr Smith said. 

“This achievement is testament to the character of all the Hutchison workers who have braved wind, hail and shine at the two community assemblies in Brisbane and Sydney and remained united, determined to beat an injustice which was not acceptable in a modern workplace or society.”

“I extend further gratitude to other unions, both locally and internationally, and the wider community for showing their solidarity at the assemblies and through the thousands of letters of support we received. It was because of them we were able to maintain morale for the sacked workers. This struggle was a genuine coming together of the local, national and international.

“Thanks to the determination of the whole of the workforce and their supporters in Australia and internationally common sense has prevailed. This has been a long hard go. We have been forced into a battle with the world’s biggest stevedore and we have won the battle by returning to a mutually agreed outcome.

“We can now move forward with Hutchison in a way that can underpin getting their business back on its feet with and not against those courageous workers are committed to the same outcome.”