Action taken over undermining of wages and conditions on the waterfront

Contributed from Victoria

A protest over the actions of Victoria International Terminal (VICT), will take place  outside the CFMEU office on Thursday 12 April. This arises out of concern over the the practrce high-level exploitation by the Philippine based multinational, which happens to be owned by shipping giant ICTSI.

This is the same company that provoked the dispute last November, by sacking a Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) delegate. It resulted in Webb dock being closed by an ongoing community assembly.

VICT were forced to retreat. But the company workforce and union assert that there has been insufficient real change in the company’s style of operating.

Union sources say that management continues to try undermining wages and conditions at every opportunity. Promises made to pay proper wages and bring in employment permanency have been broken. Safety standards remain inadequate, and efforts by safety officers to make improvements have been overridden.

The treatment of workers from poorer countries is much worse than what has been tried on Australians. Evidence of underpayment and overwork, coercion and even violence being directed against union members has been uncovered. Employees speaking out become targets for attack.

This has prompted the International Transport Federation, which includes unions in Australia and other countries, standing up and calling out ICTSI’s exploitation of workers and communities.

Last year, VICT acted with the covert backing of the Australian government and employer groups, wishing to use the company’s methods to de-unionise the waterfront and introduce a cheap labour force.  This was an important wedge into the Australian labour market. But the widespread union and community response prevented this from happening.

This company continues to be a significant threat. It already has a track record of undermining conditions in the international shipping industry and is attempting to use every opportunity to bring the same into Australia.

The unions see that the best response is to take on the parent company and subsidiary with a coordinated international campaign.

Meanwhile, a dispute has been taking place, concerning  Webb Dock and operator Qube Ports, over an attempt to bring in a new agreement that would include an up to 56 percent cut in wages, through a change in the roster system and cutting pay rates from $52.78 an hour to $21.67.

A Solidarity Souvlaki Day was held at the dock this last Sunday (8 April), to provide an update on the dispute.


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