Two hundred wharfies have this morning commenced a two-day strike at Dubai Ports container terminal in Fremantle, joining workers in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane.
The Maritime Union of Australia said workers at Australia’s largest stevedore had been left with little choice but to take industrial action in an effort to finalise a workplace agreement that would protect them against casualisation, driverless machinery and outsourcing of jobs, cuts to conditions such as income protection, and lock in important rights such as parental leave and domestic violence leave.
The national work stoppages — varying from 48 to 96 hours in length — come on top of a range of industrial actions that include indefinite work bans, including bans on upgrades, overtime, and shift extensions.
“Wharfies have not taken this action lightly, but the insistence of Dubai Ports management on an agreement that would have significant and unacceptable detrimental impacts on workers has left them with no choice but to take strike action,” MUA West Coast Deputy Secretary Adrian Evans said.
“Management have drawn a line in the sand, telling workers they need to withdraw their claims and accept the company’s offer if they want to reach an agreement.
“What Dubai Ports need to recognise that Australian workers have rights and we are prepared to fight for a decent share of the productivity gains we have delivered on the waterfront.
“Our experience of the previous agreement, which expired in February, was that Dubai Ports repeatedly moved the goalposts by making changes to rosters, reinterpreting the agreement, and changing policies that impacted employee rights.
“We’ve learnt from that experience, which is why workers want an agreement featuring unambiguous wording that covers a range of key issues, such as outsourcing and automation provisions, so that when we lock in a deal, Dubai Ports will be forced to honour it.”
Mr Evans said a key sticking point was the company’s refusal to include domestic violence leave in the agreement.
“Dubai Ports claim to be a White Ribbon workplace, but when it comes to supporting employees who become victims of domestic violence, they go missing in action,” he said.
“Raising awareness is great, but it’s time to take the next step and actually do something to support employees when they desperately need it.
“What the company wants is to have domestic violence leave as a discretionary company policy, which they can change at will or abolish if they choose, but we want it locked into the agreement to ensure any workers who suffer domestic violence has the support they need.”