BY SHANE BENTLEY
SYDNEY — On November 17, the notorious anti-union labour-hire company Skilled Engineering refused to hire Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) maintenance staff employed at Patrick Stevedores terminals at Port Botany, Sydney and Fisherman's Island, Brisbane.
After Skilled Engineering won the maintenance contract from Transfield, a handful of around 40 former Transfield permanent employees from the two sites were not offered jobs by Skilled Engineering. Half of the permanent workers refused jobs were delegates.
All former Transfield employees, both permanent and casual, who were offered work with Skilled Engineering have refused to accept until the company employs all former workers — including the delegates.
The MUA maintenance work forces in both Sydney and Brisbane are picketing the maintenance departments at the two Patrick terminals.
Patrick has managed to bring in scab labour. However, productivity has rapidly declined due to the inexperience of the scabs attempting to maintain the heavy stevedoring machinery.
The MUA had been negotiating for several weeks to win a straight transmission of business from Transfield to Skilled so that all maintenance staff would keep their jobs and existing conditions.
Each time the maintenance contract has been won by a different company, job security issues have arisen, with labour-hire companies attempting to reduce working conditions. Patrick Stevedores won the right to use contract labour for maintenance work as a result of the 1998 maritime dispute.
Twenty-four-hour peaceful community assemblies have been set up outside the gates of Patrick at Penrhyn Road, Port Botany, and Port Road, Fisherman's Island.
Contact MUA branches in Sydney (02) 9264 5024 and Brisbane (07) 3395 7215 for more information.
[Shane Bentley is an MUA member employed at P&O White Bay and a member of the Socialist Alliance.]
From Green Left Weekly, November 26, 2003.
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