The Federal Government has intervened in a bid to curtail the industrial action at the Fremantle Port on grounds of serious economic damage to the state.
Three months of ongoing industrial action at the Fremantle Port is threatening to bring the WA economy to its knees, prompting the unusual response of the Labor State Government calling on the Federal Liberal government to help end the dispute.
Attorney-General Minister Michaelia Cash will apply to the Fair Work Commission (FWC) to terminate the Maritime Union of Australia’s (MUA) ongoing strikes against stevedore Qube, after the McGowan government requested her assistance in the face of crippling delays to critical supplies for the agricultural, construction and mining sectors.
The strike action had reportedly forced seven ships in ten days to divert to Adelaide and Melbourne ports to offload their cargo comprising cars, combine harvesters and mining machinery desperately needed in WA.
Senator Cash said the industrial dispute had been “going on for far too long” and was “causing financial harm to the Western Australian economy, damaging the reputation of Fremantle Port and putting jobs at risk”.
“Government intervention in an enterprise bargaining dispute should be a last resort, however I am concerned that critical supplies to our construction and mining industries, export of WA’s minerals and farming produce, will continue to be impacted if the industrial action does not cease and a resolution is not found,” she said.
“The impact of this dispute is being felt throughout the WA economy from the local builders who can’t get supplies to finish their projects, to our regional farms and businesses that rely on the port to move their products. It’s time that it was brought to an end.”
MUA members are striking for changes that would obligate Qube to notify permanent employees by 2pm instead of 4pm if they have a shift the next day to allow them to better plan their day.
A representative from Qube said the existing rostering times are necessary to cope with fluctuations in arrivals, have been in place for 20 years and have been agreed to by the MUA at 25 of 26 port operations around Australia.
If the FWC grants the Minister’s application the dispute will enter compulsory conciliation and, if that fails, arbitration will be enacted.