Transport Minister Dean Nalder and the Esperance Port Authority have twice contradicted each other over the negotiation of a new Enterprise Bargaining Agreement for Port stevedores and maintenance workers.
Today, Minister Nalder was reported as saying, “the Esperance Port has the right to negotiate independently of the wages policy of government.” However, in negotiations with the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) over the last 10 months, the union has been repeatedly told by EPSL negotiators that it was bound by the government’s wages policy.
Earlier this week, EPSL management advised the MUA that a wages agreement reached between Port and union negotiators and recommended to the EPSL Board had failed to “gain support”, but that the Board was “not the obstacle”.
The only government figure with the power to direct the EPSL Board is Transport Minister Dean Nalder, but the Minister was reported today as saying, “I have not been involved in blocking any wage deal at all.”
MUA Organiser Jeff Cassar said somebody was not telling the truth.
“We have been bargaining in good faith with EPSL since October last year, but it appears we have been misled by either the Port or the Minister,” Mr Cassar said.
“If the Minister told the truth to the media today, then the Port has misled our negotiators over the applicability of the government wages policy and who blocked the deal agreed to between Port and union negotiators.
“If the Port has been telling the truth, then the Minister has misled the public today.”
Mr Cassar said the scale of industrial action would now be escalated.
“Today, the MUA gave notice that an additional two 24 hour stoppages would occur next week, bringing the total to four 24 hour stoppages, commencing on Wednesday.
“Industrial action is always a last resort for the MUA and we regret the impact this will have on the community, but either the Port or the Minister are playing workers for fools and we need to reach a resolution.”