In a historic vote declared by the Australian Electoral Commission on 27 February 2019, workers at the NRMA My Fast Ferry and Manly Fast Ferry business overwhelmingly voted to endorse strike action on the iconic Sydney Harbour.
MUA Sydney Branch Assistant Secretary Paul Garrett, said the workers have elected to take a two-hour stoppage across all ferry operations between 8am and 10am on Wednesday, 6 March 2019 as a consequence of stalled negotiations and failure of the business to repay stolen wages.
“These committed, professional ferry workers have been pushed so far as to take strike action to demonstrate to NRMA that their behaviour against their own workforce has been appalling and will no longer be tolerated”. Garrett said.
The vote comes off the back of a December 2018 decision by the Fair Work Commission that deckhands in the Fast Ferry business could be owed as much as $1 million in wages stolen by the NRMA. In that decision the Commission found under the agreement that full-time shift workers were being short changed by $136.37 per week and part-timers were being paid $36.32 below the Award for a 12-hour week.
“What we are seeing here is systematic wage theft by NRMA on our Sydney Harbour. The company has had well over a year to rectify this situation. Sadly, NRMA CEO Rohan Lund has decided rather than treating his workers decently and justly, he would rather spend hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees trying to deny workers entitlements that any person living in Sydney would expect” said Mr Garrett.
“We understand that this action will inconvenience commuters on their way to work. We must be clear that responsibility for this lies squarely at the feet of the NRMA. On more than seven occasions we have met with the NRMAs high priced legal team, CEO Rohan Lund, HR and a litany of middle-managers in attempt to fix these stalled EBA negotiations. The NRMA has spent thousands and done everything possible to back in behind a business model based on wage theft” said Mr Garrett.
The ferry skippers, all of whom are casual, are still yet to receive a complete wage offer from NRMA in the EBA negotiations, despite the company formally initialising the bargaining process on 24 September 2018. That’s five months and three days without a complete package for consideration.
The MUA notes that Manly Fast Ferry won the contract with the NSW Government to operate the fast ferry service between Manly and Sydney which commenced on 1 April 2015 and will operate for seven years. In the 3 years, 11 months and 3 days since it commenced, more than half way through, workers are still casually employed and fighting against wage theft and insecure employment.
The MUA has written to Transport Minister Andrew Constance at the start of the year seeking immediate intervention by the agency Transport for NSW. Garrett said “it is time for Minister Constance to come out, deal with this and get it fixed. The week after the NSW Government announces a $1.3bn deal for the Transdev Sydney Ferries contract, they have another one of their contracted operators going on strike because the crew are refusing to be paid less than industry and in some cases, below the minimum Award rate.
“The MUA has raised the ongoing wage theft in the NRMA ferry company with both the Transport Minister directly as well as Transport for NSW for some twelve months now.”
“All workers are asking for is to be paid decently and be treated with dignity and respect. In return, the NRMA has harassed and intimidated staff, even going as far as dismissing a staff member for simply standing up for what is right. How can anyone trust a company that behaves like this?”
“Ferry workers do not want to have to do this. Their commitment, professionalism and dedication is truly astounding given what the NRMA has thrown at them. If the NRMA does the right thing, we will happily call this action off and continue to deliver a great service to the people of Sydney.”
“To Rohan Lund I say this – it is over to you. Will you act now to stop your Sydney Harbour business being thrown into chaos and ensure a fair deal for ferry workers?” said Mr Garrett.
Paul Garrett 0418 422 589