Hutchison assemblies holding firm

The community assembly at Port Botany now has its own post box.

"This morning marks 50 days since the start of this important dispute," Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) Sydney branch assistant secretary Paul Garrett told Green Left Weekly on September 25.

He was speaking at the community assembly outside the Hutchison Ports terminal at Port Botany, which was set up after the company's sudden sacking of 97 waterside workers by text and email on August 6.

Although a Federal Court injunction forced the company to put all the workers back on the payroll weeks ago, the sacked workers have not been rostered on for work or allowed back onto the site. Community assemblies continue at Port Botany and at Port of Brisbane, where the 97 workers were employed.

Garrett said: "Hutchisons could resolve this dispute right now if they wanted to. The MUA is ready to work through any other operational matters, once all the workers are back in the gate."

Discussions between the company and the union have been ongoing, with another meeting in Fair Work Australia due on September 29.

"Public support for the community assembly is still strong," Garrett said. "The solidarity from community, unions, political groups, and internationally has kept up the spirits of the sacked workers.

"They are determined to fight for a fair go and dignity in the workplace."

Eddie, a Hutchison worker at Port Botany, told Green Left Weekly: "The company has a hidden agenda, and refuses to move on our key demands."

Joe, who has been a waterside worker for 13 years, now sacked from Hutchison in Brisbane and visiting the Sydney assembly, said: "It is heartening to see the public support from all over the community.

“In Brisbane, an elderly lady brought us a cake, which she had spent the whole day making.

"Many guys who went through the 1998 Patricks dispute have kept up our morale with stories about that big struggle."

The Port Botany assembly is growing stronger by the week, with an official post box now set up — 97 Sirius Road, Port Botany — where letters of solidarity can be sent. The number 97 was chosen to reflect the number of workers sacked.

NSW Ports has also been obliged to paint a pedestrian crossing at the site for the safety of people walking across the road, with container trucks constantly driving through.

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