Tuesday, June 29, 2021

After Years of Haggling Comes a New Deal for Container Terminal Workers

Four Year Working Arrangement Settled
Shipping News Feature

AUSTRALIA – Regular readers may have formed the impression that all transport related unions ever do is complain, not illogical as they are there to uphold the rights of their members as they interpret them. The Maritime Union of Australia (MUA), Led by Paddy Crumlin, can often be particularly acerbic in its comments.

This week however the MUA is fulsome in its praise as it awaits the certification from the Fair Work Commission for a new workplace agreement signed with the world’s largest stevedoring company, Hutchison Ports and setting a new industry benchmark at container terminals in Sydney and Brisbane.

Once certified MUA workers will receive five 2.5% wage increases over the four year agreement. The agreement with Hutchison Ports Australia will see the introduction of 20 days paid domestic violence leave, the creation of permanent rosters, and the addition of a clause that gives the workforce the ability to find alternatives to redundancies in the event of an economic downturn.

Let us gloss over the hard-nosed bargaining which inevitably leads up to such a deal. Both sides would doubtless agree that posing and harsh words are part of the process and MUA Deputy National Secretary Warren Smith emphasised this saying the negotiations had been among the hardest seen in the industry. He commented:

“This agreement will see job security strengthened at the terminals, with protection against job losses due to the implementation of automation, technology and contractors, along with a move to address insecure work with a cap on casual employees and an emphasis on rostered permanents and guarantee workers.

“This agreement not only brings to an end three years of hard-fought negotiations, it sets new industry standards, not only for Australia, but around the world. The introduction of 20 days paid domestic violence leave is a significant victory that will reduce the financial hardship suffered by people dealing with the challenges of violence in the home.

“Nothing in this agreement was handed to us. It took three years of unwavering determination and united action from members at the Sydney and Brisbane terminals to achieve this victory. These negotiations were among the hardest ever seen in our industry, with new claims from management threatening to derail discussions right until the end, but despite all these obstacles we have managed to achieve a ground-breaking agreement.

“We could not have achieved this outcome without the sacrifices of MUA members who were united in exercising their lawful right to undertake industrial action in defence of a fair agreement. Nothing was given to us for free, and while negotiators spent countless hours working towards this outcome it was made possible by the efforts of every rank and file member at Hutchison.”

Photo: MUA staff celebrate the announcement of the agreement.