The motto of the dock workers sacked on 6 August in Sydney and Brisbane by Hutchison, the world’s biggest container terminal operator, remains: one day longer!
However long Hutchison delays on reinstatement, the workers’ protest will last one day longer.
On 2 September the privatised Port of Brisbane — landlord for the Hutchison Brisbane terminal and for the approach road — told the workers that they must dismantle the community protest line maintained at the terminal entrance since 7 August.
The Port backed down after a meeting of the Hutchison workers and union delegates from other terminals, and a letter from the workers’ union (MUA) branch secretary, Bob Carnegie.
“We have an absolute and fundamental right in this country”, wrote Bob, “to speak our minds freely and to demonstrate peacefully. We intend to defend that right, should we need to, with whatever means are at our disposal, including but not limited to the political, community and industrial protest which would occur should we be attempted to be moved off the tiny parcel of land leased to us, we thought in good faith, from the Port of Brisbane”.
A similar attempt to dismantle the protest line in Sydney was defeated.
The sacked workers and supporters are maintaining a 24/7 assembly at the terminal gate. Workers who have not been sacked and have been rostered on are meeting with the assembly each day, going into work, but insisting on 100% observance of all safety regulations.
Probably Hutchison’s aim was to “crash” the terminals so that they could impose worse labour conditions. Just before they sacked 97 out of 204 operations and maintenance workers in Brisbane and Sydney, they subcontracted most of the shipping lines they’ve been handling to other operators.
The workers’ resistance has forced some concessions. The Fair Work Commission has ordered that the 97 be put back on pay until 14 October. Hutchison global bosses have stepped in, sidelining the Australian managers who did the sackings, and agreed to negotiate through the Commission.
Now Hutchison are dragging their feet, hoping the action will fade by 14 October. The union is organising varied activities at the terminal gates to keep up the pressure.