Esperance Port Workers Return To Work

Management failure to recognise workers' skills and entitlements brought the port of Esperance to a standstill this week

MUA members in the port of Esperance are back to work after two 24 hour stoppages over management failiure to negotiate equitable wages and conditions during six long months of the enterprise agreement talks.

Jason Shaw, MUA delegate, said one of the sticking points was workers had no career path. Despite four levels and increments people were left on the entry level for years earning the same amount as unskilled workers just starting out at the port.

"It's more about recognition of our skills," he said. "We do everything -  stevedoring , lineswork, tradeswork.  But we are left on the same wage for years.  We've dropped claims, they haven't budged." 

About 80 workers went out the gates on a 24-hour strike last week, affecting shipments of iron ore, wheat and fertilizer.  MUA members returned to work after a second 24 hour stoppage yesterday.

MUA WA Assistant secretary Will Tracey, told ABC Radio the port authority's offer of a four and a half per cent pay increase falls short of the six to seven per cent workers feel they deserve.

"We know there's going to be a fair bit of activity [at the port], we know we're in boom times."

"Management are seeking to wind back key conditions such as redundancy and leave entitlements," he said.  "I think there is a sense of frustration among the workforce."

Will Tracey said management had refused to meet with the union.

 "They said well you've  got to do what we've got to do," said Will Tracey. "And that's put us in the position where we've got no other alternative but to take action. It's not a decision the workforce takes easily because losing two days pay is not an easy decision to take but when the port puts us in the position daring us I don't see we're left with much option."


It's not the first time the port of Esperance has been in the news.  In 2009 the port was fined a half million dollars over contamination from lead dust in the township.  

Workers at the port were also exposed, several  returning blood level readings for lead, measuring units in double figures (eg. 17,27,37).  The lead is now exported from Fremantle in sealed containers, but the port is picking up on the economic boom in the west, with mineral trades expanding south.