"(Strike) is the last card in the pack. You know and these guys have been hanging on to the breath for a resolution for nine months and they're asphyxiated." - Paddy Crumlin, ABC Radio AM
The three day stoppage on the Patrick bulk and general wharves, Fremantle is over key issues of safety, job training and permanency, National Secretary Paddy Crumlin told ABC Radio this morning. And all three issues are all linked and apply to all ports nationwide.
The three-day strike is at Patrick Stevedoring facilities at Fremantle wharf with strikes in Albany, Melbourne and Geelong are also possible.
"This is the bulk and general, this is not terminals; this is not containers. And the problem is with bulk and general stevedoring it's very dangerous; you know you have timber, steel, cars, it's the area where people get killed, that's where the injuries are. We've lost three workers this year, two out of bulk and general, one in the terminals and in the last 10 years there's been eight wharfies killed," he told ABC.
Asked what is the most important issue was - safety or permanency Paddy Crumlin replied they were inseperable.
"Safety is about training; it's about making sure that you've got a stable environment, that you've got a clear undertaking, everybody's got a clear undertaking and an expectation that they've got a routine; they've got a guarantee of employment."
He said the issues applied to all ports and if they were not sorted in the west or at the negotiating table industrial action could well spread to other ports.
"We're not looking for a fight," he said. "We've got these guys at Christmas time that are casualised, they'll take their action, if they want to take further action they've got to go through all the business of the Fair Work; they've got to make application, they've got to have a vote, they've got to go back, the commissioner has to make a determination.
"It's the last card in the pack. You know and these guys have been hanging on to the breath for a resolution for nine months and they're asphyxiated".
Meanwhile MUA WA secretary Chris Cain told the West Australian workers were frustrated after six months of unsuccessful talks with the company and decided last week to take protected strike action after 98 per cent of its members voted in favour of a 72-hour strike at Fremantle and a 48-hour strike at Albany.
"We have been treated like second-class citizens by this company," he said.
"The results of the secret ballot speak for themselves. We are all united in achieving what we believe are fair aims." The union wants more permanency in jobs and better wages.
Mr Cain said more than 70 per cent of workers were casual employees and "hanging on the phone" for shiftwork that had 18 start times.
Wharfies in Fremantle walked off the job for 72 hours and have said they will also strike in Albany, south of Perth, for 48 hours on Thursday.
Workers at Melbourne's Webb Dock and Geelong also voted to strike in protest of safety and pay conditions.
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OTHER MEDIA REPORTS
The national secretary also appeared on ABC TV News Breakfast this morning.