Australia: Wharfies strike over conditions at Patrick Stevedores

Fremantle port where workers have gone on strike

Maritime Union of Australia members in Patrick Stevedoring facilities at Fremantle, Albany, Melbourne's Webb Dock, and Geelong have voted overwhelmingly to take protected action after a secret ballot conducted by the Australian Electoral Commission.

Wharfies in Fremantle took industrial action on the 27th December for 72 hours, with workers in Albany to follow on December 30 for 48 hours. Webb Dock and Geelong have not yet provided notice when they are taking action.

Fremantle Port Authority spokeswoman Ainslie De Vos said two vessels could potentially be affected by the strike.

"One of the vessels in the inner harbour in Fremantle will be affected by the strike and possibly a bulk ship in Kwinana will be affected," she said.

The industrial action follows 6 months of negotiations which the union has labeled as unfruitful and unsatisfactory. The unions claims include: negotiations on wage rises, increasing the levels of permanency and career progression, increased training particularly regarding OH&S procedures and the safety culture on the waterfront, better processes for consultation rather than enforcement, and a disputes procedure that allows for independent arbitration when workers and management are unable to resolve disputes.

MUA National Secretary Paddy Crumlin said "After six months of patient, reasonable and determined negotiations on our part, Patrick has refused to meet the Union even part of the way. This is not an unreasonable wage claim; in fact wages are quite literally the least of our priorities. This is about the safety and well-being of workers at Patrick bulk and general facilities."

"I am horrified to hear that OH&S representatives that have raised safety issues on behalf of workers have been targeted by management through disciplinary measures. This same heavy handed approach by management is applied across the workforce." Paddy Crumlin said.

There have been 3 workplace deaths on the waterfront in 2010, with 60% of the Patrick workforce is employed on a causal basis. Some of these workers have been casual for over 9 years and the average is around 5 years, according to the MUA. There is minimal training and it is delivered without a strategic or purposeful framework.

The MUA and Patricks were at the centre of the 1998 Waterfront dispute where the company attempted to dismiss it's workforce on mass and bring in a non-union workforce. The plan to de-unionise the waterfront was hatched in collusion with senior members of the Howard Government.

"With the assistance of Work Choices, Patrick has instilled an antiquated and - frankly - dangerous management culture at these facilities." said Paddy Crumlin.

After six months of negotiations there are no resolutions to any of the National claims, or on any local negotiations at the 12 sites currently negotiating.

Source:

* MUA media release - Fremantle workers strike: life is simply too precious

Comments

Spartacus
Dec 27 2010 12:22

i couldn't find any libcom articles on the 1998 waterfront dispute, if there is one feel free to edit in the link. if there isn't but someone knows of good libertarian material on it that can be put in the library or adapted for a history article let me know and i can put it in if you don't have time.

With Sober Senses
Dec 28 2010 09:20

Hey all, here is probably your best bet
http://www.takver.com/wharfie/index.htm
cheers
Dave

Spartacus
Dec 28 2010 12:17

luckily that's the one linked to in the original indymedia article which i formatted for libcom, i just glanced at it yesterday to make sure it wasn't full of nazis or something. i'll have a more detailed look in the next few days or weeks and see if anything there would be worth putting up here.

Steven.
Dec 28 2010 13:08
Spartacus wrote:
luckily that's the one linked to in the original indymedia article which i formatted for libcom, i just glanced at it yesterday to make sure it wasn't full of nazis or something. i'll have a more detailed look in the next few days or weeks and see if anything there would be worth putting up here.

cheers for all this!

With Sober Senses
Dec 28 2010 14:28

Unfortunately I don't think there is much that is written on the 1998 Wharf dispute, maybe pieces here and there. This is strange because in many ways it was the last big classic union dispute in Australia and had a massive impact on many people's lives. I spent a bit of time at Port Botany on the picket there and it was fucking amazing...even though I was too starry eyed to cotton on to how fucked the union leadership was and the other limitations of the struggle.
Look I could be wrong as I am not really up on industrial relations literature.
This is a funny old book that I am fond of that comes out of the wake of the dispute. Might be of interest'
http://workersbushtelegraph.com.au/books/after-the-waterfront-the-workers-are-quiet/

Spartacus
Dec 29 2010 05:34

sweet, i'll look into putting that one up too!

steven.: no problem, i now have regular internet again so i've been preparing to start up my asian workers' struggles blog again too. i would donate financially too but i'll have to wait until i'm working again.

riot_dude
Dec 30 2010 02:08

You could always go watch the ABC miniseries about the dispute: 'Bastard Boys', not really a historical document, but you know...
the scene of the workers whinging about the vegan food Food Not Bombs is serving is pretty funny.

Spartacus
Dec 30 2010 03:04

i saw a bit of that actually a year or so ago, it wasn't bad. "i wanted a boyfriend but all you wanted to do was read marx" was a great line from it...

Spartacus
Jan 11 2011 07:35

Update: The strikes continued over to the East Coast yesterday with a 24 hour strike at Geelong (near Melbourne) supported by a transfer ban by wharfies at Melbourne's Webb Dock. Fairly neutral report here, detailed but right wing reports in the Australian here and here, and press release from the union here (earlier one here).