Ferry workers take strike action

The picket line on December 6, the first morning of a 48-hour strike. Photo: Alex Bainbridge

Ferry workers went on strike on December 6 in a bid to secure a fair wage and job security which, until now, their employer Transdev has refused to guarantee in enterprise negotiations.

Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) Queensland branch secretary Bob Carnegie told the hundreds of people gathered at the picket line that it was "a wonderful thing" to see ferry workers "standing up to a large transnational company that has been treating them like crap for a number of years".

Transdev has a record of offering pay rises on paper, but then reneging in practice. For example, one year workers won a travel allowance for those rostered on at 6.30am or earlier. The company then started rostering people to start at 6.31am.

Currently a ferry — which could be carrying 200 passengers — is required to have a crew of three. In exceptional circumstances, the ferry can be crewed by two people. In these cases, the two are each paid an allowance equal to half the pay of the third crew member to cover the extra responsibilities.

The company is refusing to guarantee that staffing levels will remain at three crew for each ferry. It also wants to remove the allowance when a ferry is only crewed by two people.

This is not only an attack on workers' jobs — it would have big safety implications if two-person crews were standardised.

Queensland Council of Unions general secretary Ros McLennan told the picket that the strke action is about "decent pay for secure work with timetables for safety".

She pointed out that Transdev pays less than 3% tax. One sign pointed this out, saying: "We pay more tax than Transdev".

Another speaker said that Brisbane bus drivers are the highest paid bus drivers in South East Queensland while Brisbane ferry workers are the lowest paid in Australia. The difference, he said, is that bus drivers are employed directly by the Brisbane City Council while the ferry service is contracted out to a private company.

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