Workers anger set to boil as Port Botany union dispute escalates

Tug and container ship at Port Botany

Contributed from the Maritime Union of Australia (Sydney)

Ships lines workers in Port Botany declared yesterday that the 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 the pariah company.”

In the midst of union EBA negotiations in February 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 Kumell 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 will never be allowed to take root in the Sydney maritime industry.

“What we see here yet again is n example of a company using the excuse of the Covid pandemic in the most cynical way.”

Port and Harbour Services have got contact with the fuel distributor Caltex, to moor and unmoor ships carrying fuel into Sydney, from Monday 21 September 2020. Since then the 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. The scab company thinks they can sail in and do whatever they want. We will see about that.”

Caltex at Kurnell

The dispute with this mooring company has come in the context of building tensions with container stevedoring operations 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 behaviour by rebranding as Ampol.

“This is classic American style of behaviour 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 behaviour 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 or ever.”

Further community actions on land and sea will be escalating over the coming days, if Caltex or any other company does not cancel its contracts with Port and Harbour Services.

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