Esperance Port workers have voted overwhelmingly in favour of industrial action, in two secret ballots conducted over the last four weeks.
Stevedores and maintenance workers have been trying to negotiate new Enterprise Bargaining Agreements with Esperance Port Sea and Land (EPSL). The WA Branch of the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) represents 53 stevedores at the Port, with maintenance worker Mr Glen Bale independently representing 23 maintenance workers.
MUA Organiser Jeff Cassar said the union was doing everything it could to avoid industrial action, but EPSL was leaving little choice.
“For months, we have been trying to negotiate a new agreement in good faith with EPSL and they continue to be unreasonable,” he said.
“First, they wanted workers to accept a pay rise of 2.5 per cent, while providing 4.4 per cent in productivity improvements.
“Their second offer involved workers receiving a 4 per cent pay rise, while providing 5.93 per cent in productivity improvements.
“With EPSL, it is a case a give a little, but take a lot more.”
Mr Cassar said the State Government seemed determined to blame the MUA for the impasse.
“There is an ongoing and coordinated campaign by both the Federal and State Governments, assisted by industry, to vilify the MUA, but when you look at the facts, you get a different picture.
“We have tried phoning the CEO of EPSL, the CEO of Southern Ports and we have emailed Transport Minister Dean Nalder, but each of them refuses to get back to us.
“It is almost as if the State Government wants industrial action to occur, no matter what the impact on the local community and the local economy, so that they can demonise the MUA as a part of their right wing industrial relations agenda.
“We understand Minister Nalder is still on his training wheels as a Minister, but as an aspiring Liberal Leader, here is an opportunity for him to show some leadership by directing EPSL back to the negotiating table.”
Mr Cassar said the secret ballots of workers saw 75 per cent endorsement for industrial action by stevedores and 100 per cent endorsement of industrial action by maintenance workers. The ballots were conducted by the Australian Electoral Commission, on behalf of the Fair Work Commission.
“Industrial action is always a last resort, but the ball is now firmly in the court of EPSL,” he concluded.
Industrial action could commence from 19th July and could include stoppages ranging from four hours to seven days in duration.