Unions Act To Protect Penalty Rates and Job Security

The ACTU and Maritime Union of Australia have urged terminal operator Dubai Ports World to get back to the negotiating table for a new enterprise bargaining agreement.

Dubai Ports World began a lockout of MUA members in Melbourne and Sydney today, with protected industrial action set to begin in Fremantle tomorrow.

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Assistant National Secretary Warren Smith on the stump outside of DP World Port Botany

MUA National Secretary Paddy Crumlin said: “The company is trying to create the perception that kids won’t get their Christmas presents. Well, shame on them. This is a dispute where the timing is entirely of the company’s making.

“Unions are required by law to give three days’ notice of any protected action. All of the ports affected have multiple operators, so there is enough time for goods to be sub-contracted and unloaded elsewhere.

“Dubai Ports World has also taken the extraordinary step of banning its workers from talking to the media under threat of the sack – what are they trying to hide?

“The MUA has been bargaining for more than ten months for a new EBA, with a view to maximising permanency and job security. Now, the company has declared war on its own workforce with the militant employer tactic of a lockout.

Mr Crumlin said Dubai Ports World should drop its deliberate campaign of antagonism against its workers and return to the bargaining table with a renewed sense of fairness.

“Dubai Ports World fails the fairness test. They are trying to take away penalty rates for any new employees and also using forced redundancies of existing staff in a bid to drive up the rate of casuals in the workforce – and we don’t think that’s good enough,” he said.

“It’s not much of a Christmas present to be sacked by your employer without any reasonable justification, let alone their callous decision to lock out their workforce.”

Site by site

Melbourne: There are already two different rates of pay for workers doing the same job as straddle drivers and the company now wants to do away with penalty rates for new workers.

Fremantle: There are forced redundancies for 12 full time workers set to take effect on 31st December. This will reduce the number of full time rostered permanents to 40 out of 200 (20 per cent of the workforce).

Port Botany: Automation of the terminal will mean more than 250 redundancies and there needs to be fairness in the plan for redundancies.

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Workers coming off shift outside of DP World Port Botany

Brisbane: Automation has already occurred. Not only does the new technology not work but managers are taking jobs which should be performed by MUA members.

“This dispute is about hours of work, job security, and automation of the waterfront with no fair redundancy provisions in place when hundreds of workers will get the sack,” Mr Crumlin said.

“Unions want to see fairness and transparency in the redundancy process. Automation should be introduced through negotiation - and not used as weapon in union-busting efforts.

“The company’s current offer seeks to undermine 60 years of continuous improvement in productivity and conditions on the waterfront.

“Add to that the fact Dubai Ports World is cynically targeting long-term employees – the very same workers who have helped to deliver vast profits to this company. They are trying to break the spirit of their workforce.”

DP World’s newsletter - First World - dated December 8 says:

This offer is valid until close of business on Wednesday 10 December. If it is rejected, we will be applying to the Fair Work Commission to intervene and mediate from this point on.

We believe the above offer is fair and reasonable. The sooner we agree on a new Enterprise Agreement, the sooner you will receive your pay rise. We would like this to be before Christmas.

“This is a dispute of Dubai Ports World’s own making and an obvious example of a company wanting to use the fact that we’re coming up to Christmas to try to publicly grandstand and bully their workforce into accepting a bad agreement,” Mr Crumlin said.

“Dubai Ports World management’s recalcitrance is part of a pre-determined strategy to drive this dispute to the Fair Work Commission and bring things to a combative head. That is highly disappointing.

“Dubai Ports World needs to drop its destructive and intentionally antagonistic approach to negotiations with its workforce. The company would be far better advised to engage cooperatively with the union and workers.”

ACTU President Ged Kearney said Dubai Ports World’s move to lock out its workforce was clearly part of a political and ideological agenda.

“It’s no surprise that job security is the number one issue for Australian workers given you’ve got employers, backed by the Abbott Government, trying to slash permanent jobs in favour of lower paid, insecure casual work,” Ms Kearney said.

“Casual employment is designed to be used to deal with peaks and troughs in work – not to fill 80 per cent of a workforce like Dubai Ports World has done in WA.

“And this is on top of the employer push – again backed by the Abbott Government – to cut penalty rates.

“Well, public opinion is on the side of workers and Australian Unions will be campaigning strongly and loudly around the country to save weekend rates and protect rights at work.”