Hutchison agreement nears resolution

Issue 
Hutchinsons' workers holding out.

The agreement to end the longstanding dispute between Hutchison Ports and the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) appears near to resolution after nearly four months of conflict.

The dispute began on August 6 with the sudden sacking by text and email of 97 waterfront workers at Hutchison's two facilities at Port Botany and Port of Brisbane.

On November 16, Hutchison workers at both ports voted almost unanimously to endorse a new enterprise bargaining agreement, which would allow all the sacked workers to return to work, combined with an enhanced voluntary redundancy offer from the company.

Redundant workers would have the right to return to the job within two years, whenever work picked up at the Hutchison terminals.

Sydney branch MUA assistant secretary Joe Deakin told Green Left Weekly on December 4: "We thought the settlement was ready to be finalised, but the company kept putting up obstacles to its implementation.

"Hutchisons was delaying the holding of 'reintegration training' of the whole workforce, which was a prelude to the workers going back on the job. This seemed like deliberate delaying tactics aimed at destabilising the position.

"It beggars belief that Hutchisons would do this, after an agreement was signed three weeks ago. After 16 weeks of struggle, the workers are more determined than ever to achieve a just and fair settlement.

"The workers have agreed to maintain the community assemblies outside the two terminals until all workers are back in the gate working together.

"It now seems likely reintegration training will begin on December 7. Otherwise we will consider contacting international unions, especially those at Hutchison terminals around the globe, about possible further support.

"Right from the word go, these Hutchison workers at Sydney and Brisbane have been aware that this dispute could have many twists and turns. This approach by the company is a clear message to workers that the employing classes cannot be trusted.”

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