Ports, mine tar­geted in CFMEU hit


Wharfies earn­ing up to $150,000 a year for work­ing 33 hours a week will launch in­dus­trial ac­tion at Hutchi­son Ports Aus­tralia this week, con­demn­ing the loss­mak­ing steve­dore’s bid to cut their pay and con­di­tions as the “most se­vere at­tack on water­front con­di­tions in a gen­er­a­tion”.

The in­dus­trial ac­tion at Hutchi­son, which fears the union bans could es­ca­late into strikes dis­rupt­ing op­er­a­tions at in­ter­na­tional con­tainer ter­mi­nals in Syd­ney and Bris­bane, came as Con­struc­tion Forestry Mar­itime Min­ing and En­ergy Union mem­bers at a NSW coalmine voted yes­ter­day to ex­tend a seven-day strike by a fur­ther week.

Em­ploy­ers last night ex­pressed con­cern at the in­dus­trial ac­tion by dif­fer­ent di­vi­sions of the CFMEU, with Aus­tralian Cham­ber of Com­merce and In­dus­try chief ex­ec­u­tive James Pear­son in­sist­ing strikes should be a last re­sort.

“The sight of Aus­tralia’s megau­nion, the CFMEU, flex­ing its in­dus­trial mus­cle to hold up ports and shut down mines is a sharp re­minder of why we need work­place laws that en­cour­age co­op­er­a­tion, not con­flict in the work­place,’’ Mr Pear­son said.

“Big unions are putting pres­sure on the La­bor Party to make big changes to work­place rules to give them­selves even more power. That’s a sober­ing prospect with an elec­tion just around the cor­ner.”

Hutchi­son said wharfies at its Port Botany in­ter­na­tional con­tainer ter­mi­nal in Syd­ney earned on av­er­age $150,000 a year with su­per­an­nu­a­tion and Port of Bris­bane work­ers re­ceived $130,000 an­nu­ally for an av­er­age work­ing week of 30 to 33 hours.

Em­ploy­ees get 11 weeks off a year — five weeks’ an­nual leave and an ex­tra ros­tered week off ev­ery eight weeks, up to 13 days’ sick leave, and 12 per cent su­per­an­nu­a­tion.

The com­pany is seek­ing to slash pay rates by 10 per cent fol­lowed by a 12-month wage freeze; re­duce the su­per­an­nu­a­tion con­tri­bu­tion to 9.5 per cent; and cut sick leave, re­dun­dancy and long ser­vice en­ti­tle­ments.

Mar­itime union as­sis­tant na­tional sec­re­tary War­ren Smith said work­ers would start im­pos­ing a range of work bans from Thurs­day, in­clud­ing bans on over­time and higher du­ties. The Mar­itime Union of Aus­tralia be­came part of the CFMEU last year.

“Our mem­bers refuse to sit back and watch as four decades of hard-won con­di­tions are stripped away by a greedy multi­na­tional whose only con­cern is max­imis­ing its own prof­its,’’ he said.

“We will not ac­cept an agree­ment that rips us off and re­duces our stan­dard of liv­ing, and the MUA is com­mit­ted to us­ing ev­ery in­dus­trial and le­gal tool at our dis­posal in our fight to pro­tect con­di­tions and safety stan­dards on the water­front.

“The ac­tions of Hutchi­son Ports high­light ex­actly why the Aus­tralian union move­ment has launched the Change the Rules cam­paign, to chal­lenge the ac­tions of big cor­po­ra­tions who

Em­ploy­ers have at­tacked fed­eral La­bor’s plan to ban com­pa­nies from uni­lat­er­ally ter­mi­nat­ing en­ter­prise agree­ments, claim­ing it would leave firms more vul­ner­a­ble to chang­ing mar­ket con­di­tions, dis­cour­age en­ter­prise bar­gain­ing and sup­press, rather than en­cour­age, pay rises.

Op­po­si­tion work­place re­la­tions spokesman Bren­dan O’Con­nor said suc­cess­ful em­ployer ap­pli­ca­tions to uni­lat­er­ally ter­mi­nate en­ter­prise agree­ments had led to work­ers be­ing worse off, and La­bor would pro­hibit them if it won the fed­eral elec­tion.

Mr O’Con­nor said it was un­fair and un­ac­cept­able that ter­mi­na­tions fur­ther drove down pay when wages growth was at its low­est in 20 years.

La­bor’s pol­icy is backed by unions, which claim em­ploy­ers are seek­ing to ter­mi­nate agree­ments in the “dy­ing days” of the Mor­ri­son gov­ern­ment.

Aus­tralian In­dus­try Group chief ex­ec­u­tive Innes Wil­lox ac­cused unions of “wild and false as­ser­tions”, claim­ing the facts did not sup­port the pol­icy change.

Mr Wil­lox said Fair Work Com­mis­sion data showed fewer than 3 per cent of ap­pli­ca­tions to ter­mi­nate ex­pired en­ter­prise agree­ments in the past two to three years had been con­tested.

He said there had been only a hand­ful of rig­or­ously con­tested en­ter­prise agree­ment ter­mi­na­tion ap­pli­ca­tions over the past five years.

“There were very ex­cep­tional cir­cum­stances in each case, and the agree­ment was only ter­mi­nated after a very lengthy pe­riod of bar­gain­ing and ex­ten­sive Fair Work Com­mis­sion pro­ceed­ings,’’ Mr Wil­lox said.

“Also, in each case gen­er­ous over-award wages and con­di­tions were main­tained de­spite the ter­mi­na­tion of the agree­ment.”

Aus­tralian Cham­ber of Com­merce and In­dus­try work­place re­la­tions direc­tor Scott Bark­lamb said it was vi­tally im­por­tant that em­ploy­ers had the ca­pac­ity to ter­mi­nate “out­moded agree­ments”.

“If em­ploy­ers can no longer ap­ply to have en­ter­prise agree­ments ter­mi­nated, they are go­ing to be even more ret­i­cent to use them in the first place, and this will sup­press, rather than en­cour­age, wage in­creases,’’ he said. “The con­di­tions and con­cerns of em­ploy­ers and em­ploy­ees to­day will not ap­ply in per­pe­tu­ity. Em­ploy­ers and em­ploy­ees must have flex­i­bil­ity to adapt, and you don’t get there by ce­ment­ing to­day’s pri­or­i­ties in stone.”

Mr Bark­lamb said unions re­peat­edly claimed that agree­ments were be­ing reg­u­larly and widely ter­mi­nated by em­ploy­ers uni­lat­er­ally but “that’s just un­true”. “In the hand­ful of cases where ap­pli­ca­tions are con­tested, the bar is very high and the Fair Work Act con­tains sub­stan­tial pro­tec­tions to strike the right bal­ance for all par­ties in­volved,’’ he said.

Tara Di­a­mond, act­ing chief ex­ec­u­tive of the Aus­tralian Mines and Me­tals As­so­ci­a­tion, said there was no rea­son­able jus­ti­fi­ca­tion for La­bor’s pro­posal.

“The abil­ity for ei­ther party to an agree­ment, be it a union or an em­ployer, to uni­lat­er­ally ap­ply for its ter­mi­na­tion has been a nec­es­sary and largely un­con­tro­ver­sial fea­ture of our en­ter­prise bar­gain­ing sys­tem since the 1996 Work­place Re­la­tions Act,” she said. “Only a tiny per­cent­age of ap­pli­ca­tions made over that time have been con­tested.”

One of the strik­ing coalmin­ers at Won­gaw­illi

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