Ships lines workers in Port Botany have declared today that they will “do anything it takes” to protect their jobs from scab operator Port and Harbour Services.
Maritime Union of Australia Sydney Branch Deputy Secretary Paul Keating said: “We will defend our members’ right to work – no matter what the cost. We call on Caltex and all maritime industry players to withdraw all relations with this pariah company.”
In the midst of union EBA negotiations in March this year, mooring company NMS Botany closed its doors, sacking its entire unionised workforce. The owners blamed COVID-19 and market conditions for the decision.
Six months later, the owners re-launched the company under the name Port and Harbour Services and commenced work in Kurnell and Port Botany without a union agreement.
“Shutting down a company to try and dodge paying industry rates and undermine competitors is the oldest trick in the book,” Mr Keating said.
“This kind of bottom feeding behavior will never be allowed to take root in the Sydney maritime industry.
“What we see here yet again is an example of a company using the excuse of the COVID pandemic in the most cynical way.”
Ports and Harbour Services have got a contract with fuel distributor Caltex to moor and unmoor ships carrying fuel into Sydney from Monday 21 September 2020. Since then MUA members have been campaigning against every vessel on land and at sea.
“This is an industrial dispute, and we’re seeing NSW Water Police escorting scab vessels, aiding and abetting an employer that is trying to take food from the mouths of union-members’ families,” Mr Keating said.
“This is only the beginning, this fight will not end until we see this Company gone. If Caltex and Ports and Harbour Services think that we’re going away they have got one hell of a shock coming. This scab company thinks they can just sail in and do whatever they want. Well we will see about that.”
The dispute with this mooring company has come in the context of building tensions with container stevedoring operators in Port Botany.
“Port and Harbour Services seem to think that the MUA is distracted by what’s happening with the stevedores and they can slip under the radar,” Mr Keating said.
“They have badly underestimated how seriously our members take this kind of threat.”
This dispute comes at a time that Caltex Australia is seeking to distance itself from American style anti-union corporate behavior by rebranding as Ampol.
“This is classic American style behavior we’ve come to expect from multinational oil-barons. This is Caltex’s chance to change its ways and do the right thing by Australian workers,” Mr Keating said.
“Solidarity and support has begun to flow from far and wide. This kind of behavior flies in the face of the values of our communities, and our communities will not tolerate it. The port communities and its surrounds despise scabs and the companies that employ them. There should be laws that protect Australian workers from sham contracting, phoenix companies and police-protected union busting.
“We will never allow union busting in Port Botany – not now, not ever.”
Further community actions on land and at sea will be escalating over the coming days if Caltex or any other company does not cancel its contracts with Port and Harbour Services.