After 18 months of enterprise negotiations and strike action in December and February, Brisbane ferry workers have won significant improvements in pay and conditions. A new agreement was accepted in principle at a union mass meeting on February 27.
The management of the public ferry service has been in the hands of private company TransDev. For years, the company has used aggressive tactics against the workers to drive down wages and conditions.
This agreement resulted in significant pay increases over three years in a context where the company had used "grey areas" in previous contracts to cut workers' real take home pay. The new agreement also improves conditions, particularly roster certainty.
Maritime Union deputy branch secretary Jason Miners told media that the result had "exceeded our expectations".
"They've offered us an agreement which sees workers' pay go forward [and] which protects workers with regard to their rosters."
A three day strike had been due to begin on February 27 which pushed the company to improve its offer. Only the day before the company told negotiators that they had no improvements they could offer but that quickly changed when union representatives made clear they were serious. With in principle agreement, workers will return to work on February 28.
One feature of the dispute was united action and solidarity between deck hands, customer service officers and ferry skippers. The Maritime Union of Austalia and the Australian Maritime Officers Union represnted the workers in the dispute.
Socialist Alliance candidate for Brisbane Kamala Emanuel who attended the meeting told Green Left that the Alliance congratulated the workers on their win. "Management of the ferries should never have been privatised and we call on the Brisbane City Council to bring the ferries back into public hands," she said.