Australian dock workers strike against threatened 60 percent wage cut
6 April 2018
About 145 dock workers in Melbourne yesterday began a four-day strike opposing a provocative move by their employer, Qube Ports, to junk an existing enterprise bargaining agreement and impose minimum award conditions. If successful, this would amount to a wage cut of as much as 60 percent, as well as the elimination of restrictions on unsafe shift lengths.
Qube Ports is a billion-dollar investment conglomerate that has taken over other dock companies in recent years, including P&O Automotive and General Stevedoring (2012) and Patrick (2016). Its drive to cut wages and conditions forms part of a wider corporate offensive against workers.
Qube’s attacks on port workers have proceeded within the framework of the “Fair Work” industrial legislation imposed by the previous federal Labor government with the backing of the entire trade union apparatus, including the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA), which is now a division of the newly-formed Construction Forestry Maritime Mining and Energy Union.
Qube Ports director Michael Sousa recently indicated the close collaboration between the company and the unions. He told the Australian newspaper that Qube had spent the last two-and-a-half years “negotiating” with the MUA, including 43 different meetings with union officials.
The MUA called the four-day strike after Qube applied to the Fair Work Commission, the federal industrial tribunal, to terminate the existing agreement and “renegotiate a new enterprise agreement in line with the award.”
Reporting on the Qube application yesterday, the Australian stated: “If successful, it would be the first time an agreement has been terminated on the nation’s wharves.” This…