Did the Barnett Government block an Esperance Port wages deal?

Industrial action at Esperance Port will go ahead next week, after a new wages deal struck between the Maritime Union of Australia and negotiators for Esperance Port Sea and Land (EPSL) failed to get the support of its Board.

The deal was recommended to the EPSL Board by its negotiating team, with an expectation that it would be endorsed.  However, the MUA was subsequently advised by EPSL that the deal had failed to “gain support”, but that the Board was “not the obstacle”.

MUAWA organiser Jeff Cassar said this raised the question of whether Transport Minister Dean Nalder had interfered in the process to scuttle the deal.

“We want to know if Minister Nalder has interfered in the negotiations between the Port and its workforce,” Mr Cassar said.

“We have a very strange situation where both Esperance Port and union negotiators have reached agreement, only for it to be scuttled by outside pressure.

“Workers, as well as the Esperance community and business sector, deserve to know who has heavied the Esperance Port Board into rejecting a settlement to this dispute and who they can blame for the inconvenience industrial action will cause.

“We are calling for Dean Nalder to come out and confirm or deny whether he is the one now standing in the way of this deal being signed.”

Two consecutive 24-hour stoppages at the Port will commence next Wednesday 6th August.

The action was endorsed by secret ballot of members, which saw 75 per cent endorsement for industrial action by stevedores and 100 per cent endorsement of industrial action by maintenance workers.  The ballot was conducted by the Australian Electoral Commission, on behalf of the Fair Work Commission.

“Industrial action is always a last resort for the MUA, but we have been negotiating for months, only to hit a wall,” said Mr Cassar.

“We call upon Dean Nalder to back the deal recommended by EPSL negotiators, so we can reach a negotiated outcome and put this dispute behind us.”