Wire-Drawn Ferries dispute escalated to full 24hr stoppage as Birdon still refuses to negotiate

Published: 16 Feb 2024

Maritime Union of Australia

Sydney Branch

Media Release

February 16 2024

Wire-Drawn Ferries dispute escalated to full 24hr stoppage as Birdon still refuses to Negotiate


The ongoing industrial dispute on Sydney’s Wire-Drawn Ferries will on Monday escalate to a full 24hr stoppage across all five ferries as contractor Birdon digs in over its refusal to bargain. 

Maritime Union of Australia Sydney Branch Deputy Secretary Paul Garrett said “workers and the union have bent over backwards to try and avoid arriving at this point.  Since April 6 2023 we have written letters, spoken to the media, implemented disciplined, non-disruptive bans and petitioned decision makers.  How has Birdon responded?  With nothing.  We have not received as much as a SMS from this company for weeks.”

From 6am on Monday wire-drawn ferries in Berowra Waters, Wisemans Ferry, Webbs Creek, Sackville and Mortlake will be closed for all ordinary services. 

“Despite the extraordinary disrespect from Birdon forcing them into this situation, MUA Ferry Operators are volunteering to remain onsite – completely unpaid – throughout the full 24hr period so as to be able to run the ferries in case of medical emergency” Mr Garrett said.

“Further, after very careful consideration, this morning the Ferry Operators made the decision that they will also be taking school buses across the river.  Many of the Operators live in these communities themselves and know just how vital the ferry services are.  While we have no choice but to take this action, it’s Birdon and Transport for NSW we want our action to target – not our families, friends and communities”.  

“There has been many locals who we know have been actively speaking to Transport for NSW, speaking to local politicians, and trying to reach Birdon, pushing for a fair resolution to this dispute.  Its truly heartening to know that we have so much support in the community”

Mr. Garrett stated “this dispute isn’t primarily about pay.  Its about these Ferry Operators having the self-respect to stand up and say ‘we deserve to be treated with dignity’.  Birdon has been systematically understaffing the ferries in breach of their contract with Transport for NSW, putting the community at risk.  The training is wildly ad-hoc, the air-conditioning barely works and the company won’t even provide adequate clothing.  How the situation has deteriorated to this beggars belief”

“Of course we want a just pay outcome, but we also want rosters that create the space for work-life balance, we want basic entitlements – such as long service leave – to be honored, and we want Domestic Violence Leave so that we can be available to support our loved ones in their times of greatest need.”

“As well as workers rights enshrined in the agreement, we really do need basic safety practices cemented in so that we can ensure that operators and the community can be confident that the highest possible standards are being implemented”.

“Its not the Ferry Operators that are walking this dispute off the cliff, but until Birdon and Transport for NSW are prepared to take responsibility for this mess, we have no choice”.

MEDIA CONTACT: MUA Deputy Branch Secretary, Paul Garrett - 0418 422 589



Authorised by P Crumlin, Maritime Union of Australia, Sydney