Unions gather momentum for strike action at Port Hedland

Maritime unions at Port Hedland are making moves to garner more striking power, with two more applications for permission to strike forwarded to the Fair Work Commission.

In the wake of the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) winning permission last week to ballot workers over the decision to strike, the Australian Institute of Marine and Power Engineers (AIMPE) and the Australian Maritime Officers Union (AMOU), representing the tugboat engineers and masters respectively, have also applied to Fair Work Australia for the same permissions.

All three unions are now in dispute with Teekay Shipping Australia, which is contracted by BHP Billiton to provide shipping services for all users at the Port Hedland docks

AIMPE spokesperson Andrew Williamson said tugboat engineers often work more than 12 hours a day as a matter of routine, and that they were more concerned with reducing work intensity than increasing pay.

”With the associated extra maintenance we are seeking more time free of duty to redress the fatigue issues,” he said.

”The protected-action ballot doesn’t have to translate into disruption for the port. Yes, it can be the precursor to industrial action, but it might also focus minds in jointly arriving at outcomes outside the envelope and in a timely manner.”

Deckhands who are members of the MUA already have permission for a ballot, and have started a three-week voting period on the issue of whether to strike, starting yesterday.

The MUA will go before Fair Work Australia again during the week beginning May 5, one week

after the ballot closes.

MUA assistant secretary Will Tracey said that the initial claims have been considerably reduced.

“The MUA has agreed to significant trade offs to secure its claims,
including the forfeiture of payments for travel days, big increases in
flexibility of maintenance hours and no pay increase for members in the first
year of the agreement,” he said.

Image: Panoramio

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