Hutchison dispute edges toward settlement

Solidarity from martime workers in Fiji.

The long-running dispute between the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) and Hutchison Ports is edging closer to settlement.

An MUA member at the Port Botany community assembly told Green Left Weekly on October 30 that letters offering voluntary redundancies were being issued by the company that day. MUA members have a week to reply.

They said that substantially improved redundancy entitlements, “roughly equivalent to 26 weeks' pay,” are being offered — a big gain on the previous offer of nine weeks' pay for three years of service.

“Anyone who accepts the voluntary redundancy will have the right to return to work for up to three years, whenever employment improves at the company. This is an important gain and is very rare in any industry in Australia”, the MUA source said.

“It is now 85 days since the 97 waterfront workers at Port Botany and Port of Brisbane were suddenly sacked via text and email. We have now won no forced redundancies at Hutchison Ports,” the MUA source told GLW.

Paul McAleer, MUA Sydney branch secretary, told Green Left Weekly, that the community assemblies in Sydney and Brisbane had been vital.

“Without the assemblies, all jobs at Hutchison would have been lost. The assemblies represent our fight-back against Hutchison's breaches of the enterprise agreement. They basically ensured that there's a future for the Hutchison workforce,” McAleer said.

“The community assemblies have held strong, with ongoing support from other MUA members, other unionists and the public.

“These kinds of struggles are always difficult: they involve emotional upheaval for many workers and their families. On the positive side, not only has the solidarity been very real, workers' awareness of the harsh nature of the ruling class has increased.

“Class struggle, like this one at Hutchisons Ports, is inspirational and can prompt other such struggles,” McAleer concluded.

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