Wharfies Outraged by Pay Cut, Foreign Labor

Union members protesting the use of temporary foreign labor in Newcastle.

By The Maritime Executive 2017-08-10 04:31:54

Wharfies at Qube Ports Newcastle in Australia will impose work bans from midnight on Thursday against a company push to cut wages by 10.5 percent.

For the next two weeks, workers will only work seven hour shifts and no overtime.

The Maritime Union of Australia says workers have said an emphatic “no” to Qube’s attempt to cut wages, which they see as a transparent step toward terminating their workplace agreement. The Union says that Qube management has inflamed tensions by holding secret meetings with workers, offering them permanent positions if they accepted the 10.5 percent wage cut. 

However, Newcastle Branch Secretary Glen Williams said not one of the members accepted the deal. “What Australian household can afford to cop a 10.5 percent cut to their earnings, let alone absorb reductions to their superannuation and other work conditions?” 

The Union says the workforce and the MUA have worked tirelessly to secure first world work conditions on Australia’s waterfront, and they won’t let a giant logistics company like this strip 25 years of bargaining history away. If the company terminates their existing agreement, the Qube workforce has decided unanimously not to return to work until a new deal is struck.

Earlier in the week, workers rallied against the importation of foreign laborers at the Port of Newcastle. Although first thought to be part of the transport ship’s crew, it appears the foreign workers were flown in from Singapore on special visas to help unload its cargo.

“This makes a mockery of our border security,” MUA Acting Newcastle Branch Secretary Dennis Outram said. “At a time when we are seeing unprecedented surveillance and scrutiny at our airports, anyone can seemingly come and go through our sea ports. It also jeopardizes the safety and jobs of highly-skilled Australian workers.”

Outram said experienced local workers were being deliberately locked out of their jobs, this time helping to unload huge parts for wind turbines shipped in from overseas.

The Port of Newcastle is the largest port on the east coast of Australia and the world’s leading coal export port.