HPA Sacks Nearly 100 MUA Members By Email and Text
Subject: Hutchison Ports Australia – War on Wharfies Sheer class brutality
Hutchison Ports Australia (HPA) has unleashed an attack on its workforce only rivaled in its deviousness and sheer class brutality to the 1998 lockout on the Australian waterfront. This email serves as a report for members, supporters, fraternal unions – national and international and allies.
In the middle of last night (6/8/15), in a clandestine and brazen operation the brains trust at HPA have proceeded to sack half of their workforce in Brisbane and in Port Botany. The beefed up security presence is on the gates and workers are being denied access to lockers and personal effects.
Around 100 workers have lost their jobs in this illegitimate and unlawful action.
Making matters worse HPA has sub-contracted the majority of their vessels to other stevedores creating artificial redundancies.
Sacked by Text and Email
Adding insult to injury the workers were notified of their sacking by text and email message. This was after HPA deliberately and in a calculatingly devious fashion avoided consulting with the union to avert redundancies despite the HPA industrial instrument mandating a process of both consultation with the union and aversion of redundancies.
With breathtaking disregard for the workforce and the company’s obligations under the agreement, HPA have unleashed mass sackings without compunction. They have treated their workforce with staggering contempt, showing they view their workers as beneath consideration.
Renegade outfit, running rampant
This disrespect and ill treatment brings back memories of the way this company dealt with the Hong Kong Dockers and is dealing with our comrades in Indonesia. It demonstrates that Hutchison Ports are a renegade outfit, running rampant on an international union-busting mission.
No worker should be treated like the workers at Hutchison Ports and the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) will fight to the end for justice for our members and any other worker in struggle with this company in an effort to find a solution to this crisis on the Australian waterfront.
Only weeks before HPA put the sword to their workforce the MUA was given information that the management were planning a clandestine operation called ‘Phoenix Rising’. The company denied it.
Phoenix Rising was a plan by HPA to shed their contracts and their labour. It is union-busting 101. The plan was; don’t talk to the union except through lawyers. Create a redundancy matrix that ensured all activists and delegates were sacked. This would empty up the terminal for further automation, but without negotiation. They would then bring the terminal back into operation aligning with the onset of new Melbourne operator ICTSI, another company not widely known for its affection for union rights.
This would provide the capacity to have a full east coast service. Whether HPA and ICTSI will sell, merge, cooperate or act in a joint venture still remains to be seen. HPA have said this won’t happen so we expect that details of this will emerge over time.
Solidarity is a two way street – action needed
The MUA was able to raise the alarm on HPA when shabbily treated middle management leaked like a sieve. Not only were revealing documents uncovered but anecdotal information about the anti-union nature of the company plan were outlined to MUA delegates.
Consequently the MUA was able to raise the alarm and the ITF and IDC instantly came to our aid. Our international comrades – too many to list – made their position clear in supporting the MUA as did our many local supporters with aid coming from a wide cross section of the national trade union movement, politically progressive organizations and community allies. This support is greatly appreciated by the MUA, demonstrating that when solidarity is given it is also received. A valuable lesson for all working people. One we should never forget.
That solidarity will now have to be taken up a notch as clearly resolutions and best intentions will not do the job anymore and now the MUA will respectfully highlight that now is the time for action against Hutchison on an international scale.
Our campaign team has been working hard on this bitter dispute. We have put together a wide-ranging strategy that encompasses; industrial work, community work, a comprehensive legal strategy, in depth mapping, a broad communications strategy, political lobbying and building of alliances and coordinating international action against this multi-national rogue. Our wonderful members and supporters will be the basis of our response on the ground in both Brisbane and Sydney.
This attack is an incredible thing. Brazen and bold but at the same time risky and stupid. HPA know we will fight. We will fight hard to protect our rights.
At the time of writing the employer is attempting to use reactionary laws to undermine the legitimate struggles of the union. Our legal team will counter the arguments of the employers lawyers and we will continue to fight on.
MUA prepared to negotiate but HPA was not
We have said to the company we were prepared to negotiate the whole way through this dispute. HPA refused to talk to us except through their big end of town lawyers. This continues today.
We remain open to genuine discussions with HPA where information relating to the labour requirements of the terminal are openly put on the table so we can assess if the company are not just manipulating the contracts in an anti-union bid.
We remain open to engage in a normal, respectful negotiation about the process of change.
HPA should however know that they will be waiting a long time and the cobwebs will grow on their right wing hard line HR people if this company thinks they can use automation as union busting.
We will never accept automation without negotiation.
We will not accept the manipulation of contracts and the withholding of information in a process of change.
We will never accept the company just picking heads and sacking union delegates and activists through an unfair, non-negotiated redundancy matrix. We will fight for the right to return of every single member.
The fight of every worker
This is the fight of the MUA. But it is also the fight of every other Australian worker and a global union struggle. A worker is a worker and it is fitting to recall the slogan of the Hong Kong Dockers at this stage –
WE ARE ALL ON THE SAME OCEAN.
We ask you to join us in this fight that will have severe and ongoing ramifications for all workers in all industries if HPA is allowed to act in this manner, unlawfully and contrary to the industrial instrument.
With close-knit unity between the Sydney and Queensland branches and the National Office, all MUA Branches and the entire membership HPA may find that have bitten off more than they can chew especially with the might of the international trade union movement coming in behind us.
We can win with unity in action and we look forward to you joining us in this battle that we cannot afford to lose.
The Sydney and Queensland branches should be contacted with respect to community and local/State trade union solidarity resources and for local actions for this dispute.
International, legal, national union issues and media issues will be dealt with through the
NO –firstname.lastname@example.org 0400 368 945
Your assistance in forwarding this email to all your contacts, local and international is greatly appreciated.
In solidarity and struggle,
Assistant National Secretary
Maritime Union of Australia