MUA members in Melbourne have notified Qube of a four-day strike starting tomorrow (Thursday 5 April) at 7am at Webb Dock.
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Qube provides labour for the unloading of car imports at the Webb Dock MIRRAT terminal, which was the site of another strike over the same issue just over two weeks ago. Qube airlifted managers to the terminal to work a ship at berth.
The strike stems from Qube’s application to the Fair Work Commission to end its enterprise agreement after being at loggerheads with the Union for two-and-a-half years.
A spokesperson for the MUA said Qube had provoked a dispute by applying to have the enterprise agreement terminated.
“They are the latest employer to aggressively attack workers and their union,” he said.
“The MUA will not stand by and let our members be the subject to this attempt to cut their wages in half. The Qube members are taking legal industrial action and will stand up and fight back against this vicious attack by employers.”
A statement from Qube condemned tomorrow’s “pointless” strike action, saying a number of car-carrying vessels would be delayed and several ships would not call at Melbourne to avoid the industrial action.
Qube Ports director Michael Sousa said the company had been forced to seek the termination of the current enterprise agreement as a result of the ongoing dispute.
“If Qube’s application is accepted by the Fair Work Commission we will seek to renegotiate a new enterprise agreement in line with the Award,” he said.
Mr Sousa said Qube had spent more than two and a half years negotiating and had 42 meetings with the MUA.
“We have moved from having to reduce pay to being able to offer pay rises of close to 10% over the next four years,” he said.
“The MUA are demanding the re-introduction of an uneconomic roster, which has not been in use since 2014.”
In a statement, Shipping Australia made it clear it supported Qube’s decision not to give in to the MUA’s “unreasonable” demands, saying its members viewed this second strike in three weeks as an “unreasonable and disproportionate” response to Qube’s decision to seek termination of the enterprise agreement.
Shipping Australia CEO Rod Nairn said there has to be a limit to the cost of stevedoring in Australia.
“The fact that the workers stand to lose up to 59% of their pay if the existing EBA is cancelled and they revert to the Award conditions indicates that they are already on a good wicket,” he said.
“This looks like another muscle-flexing power-play by the union’s bosses, emboldened by their merger with the CFMEU, in a desperate attempt to cover up their own failure to negotiate.
“I know that a lot of the workers want to get on with the job, but the union is holding out for a reinstatement of restrictive rosters and more time off – these are outdated concepts and just can’t work in an industry with a sporadic work demand,” Mr Nairn said.
“The MUA executive don’t seem concerned that their own members and their families are likely to be the biggest losers, they are just pawns in the union bosses’ power-play.”
This strike coincides with the 20th anniversary of the 1998 waterfront dispute between the Maritime Union and Patrick.
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