The Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) and ports operator Qube are at loggerheads over an apparent announcement by Qube that it will begin making employees around Australia redundant as a result of the breakdown of enterprise agreement negotiations in the Port of Fremantle.
According to a statement issued by the MUA earlier today (13 September), Qube Ports Director Michael Sousa informed the union that large global shipping line Wallenius Wilhelmsen had indicated over the weekend it would cancel its contract with Qube and shift its business to rival operator Linx.
MUA WA Branch Secretary Will Tracey said Wallenius Wilhelmsen was Qube’s largest customer and the loss of this business would have a detrimental effect on its profits and share price.
“This will be a devastating blow to Qube Ports, which is one of Australia’s largest import/export logistics firms,” Tracey said.
“Rather than negotiating a fair outcome to the dispute at Fremantle, which is now in its seventh week, Qube Ports appears to have decided that winning an industrial dispute and losing its major client is a good outcome for the company, its workers and its shareholders.”
‘Dispute is not about wages’ claims MUA union
Tracey said the company had outlined to the MUA the numbers of jobs to be made redundant across the Brisbane, Melbourne and Port Kembla Terminals.
“The MUA bargaining dispute with Qube, incredibly, is not about wages and is focussed firmly on providing our members with a safer work environment,” he stated.
“Our bargaining claims are primarily about improving fatigue-management practices and occupational health and safety on the job, while ensuring that our members have a proper work-life balance.”
Tracey said a key claim is workers having an ability to plan their life outside of work. Not one worker employed by Qube in Fremantle Ports has a roster, he said
“Workers, including permanents, are told by text message whether they have work the following day and which shift they will be working. This is no way for a company to treat its workforce.”
Qube says unions wants black bans of vessels
In its own statement issued tonight (Australian time), Qube said the MUA’s Fremantle branch had begun targeting international shipping lines in an attempt to organise black bans of vessels visiting the Qube Fremantle terminal.
The union was urging shipping lines to move their contracts for stevedoring in Fremantle and possibly Brisbane to Linx, Qube said.
Michael Sousa, Director, Qube Ports said: “This behaviour from the MUA is both disgraceful and un-Australian. The MUA is using bullying tactics against Qube customers that put businesses, jobs and the Western Australian economy at risk.
“We have had an agreement with the MUA since August 2020 in 25 out of 26 ports. This latest stunt by the Fremantle branch of the MUA in their failing campaign against Qube and its customers demonstrates just how low they will go.
He added: “We call on them again to return to work, take the agreed pay rise and honour the agreement reached with their national office.”
Qube said it has now called on the MUA National Office to intervene and honour the deal that was made.