MUA’s battle for jobs intensifies at Hutchison Ports

August 21, 2015
Solidarity against Hutchinsons' Port sackings in Brisbane.

The battle continues at Hutchison Ports terminals in Sydney and Brisbane against the sacking of 97 waterside workers by the company on August 6.

The campaign for reinstatement of the workers and for the defence of jobs on the waterfront refuses to die.

The sudden sackings of the Hutchison workers at midnight by text message and email has provoked widespread outrage in the union movement and more widely in the community. Public assemblies of Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) members and supporters at Port Botany and the Port of Brisbane have continued for more than two weeks.

The union won a partial victory on August 13 when the Federal Court ordered a temporary injunction, which put a two-week stay on the sackings. However, while all employees are being paid, Hutchison has refused to roster on the dismissed workers and security guards have prevented them from re-entering the workplace.

Talks between the MUA and Hutchison Ports senior management are under way, and there are further hearings in the Federal Court and Fair Work Australia. The full union case against the sackings is set to begin on August 31.

As Green Left Weekly goes to press, the public assemblies at Port Botany and Fishermen's Wharf in Brisbane are being maintained, work has started and container trucks are permitted to enter the terminals. In Sydney, Unions NSW is rostering unions to organise and staff the assembly 24 hours a day.

The MUA is calling on all workers and families who support the Hutchison workers to visit the public assembly sites and express their support for the struggle.

In an August 17 media release, the MUA said the union "rejects suggestions from Hutchison that the company is reducing its Australian operations due to a lack of competitiveness, as they have been subcontracting existing work to other stevedores.

"The union is seeking a fair and objective process where all labour data and modelling are put on the table to determine the true nature and scope of the problem."

The MUA is also demanding that any eventual redundancies be fully negotiated with the union and workers, and that no discrimination against union activists and delegates is permitted. The union is also calling for the right of any laid-off workers to be given right of return to their jobs when the company's production picks up.

Solidarity with the MUA struggle against Hutchison — the largest stevedoring company in the world — has been received from waterfront unionists internationally. These include workers at Hutchison's home port of Hong Kong, Indonesia, Spain, France, Britain, the US, India and Panama, to name just a few.

The spectre of international action against its operations is putting extra pressure on Hutchison to come to an agreement with the MUA.

Meanwhile, the public assemblies in Sydney and Brisbane are continuing as centres of union solidarity and communication.

A worker at the Port Botany assembly told Green Left Weekly "The Hutchison dispute is a test case for the future of the waterfront in this country.

"Unless we can hold the line here, we face large-scale, indiscriminate job losses across the industry. The strength of maritime workers and the MUA is being tested here, as well as the solidarity of the whole union movement."

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