BY DANIEL KELLY
SYDNEY — Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service (AQIS) workers employed on the waterfront here held a stop work meeting on September 6 over concerns about workplace safety and government plans to replace them with casuals.
The workers have been employed since April to inspect and decontaminate shipping containers in response to the spread of foot and mouth disease in Europe.
"These people diligently perform vital work in extremely trying and hazardous conditions [yet] they have put up with substandard accommodation, lack of toilets, lack of water and inadequate protective clothing. Despite repeated requests for action, AQIS has failed to address these problems. Now they are facing the sack", Community and Public Sector Union spokesperson Matthew Reynolds.
A first intake of workers have been appointed to permanent positions, however the majority, from two subsequent intakes, have been told they will be sacked on October 31.
AQIS management has argued that the workers were only selected to do container inspections on the wharves, and to be assessed for other AQIS jobs they need to apply for positions through Employment National.
The workers believe that the government is preparing to cut the container inspection program back, and move to industry self-supervision after the federal election.