MUA threatens to ban international shipping lines over Fremantle dispute

The Fremantle branch of the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) has begun targeting international shipping companies in a bid to organize black bans on ships visiting the Qube Fremantle Terminal.

Update: MUA statement available here.

Qube has been told by the MUA that they have contacted major international shipping companies through their union network in Europe and Japan, threatening customers that their ships will be black-banned and face international backlash if they continue to work with Qube . They are urging shipping companies to transfer their stevedoring contracts in Fremantle and possibly Brisbane to LINX, a competitor to Qube.

Michael Sousa, Director of Qube Ports, said: “This behavior by the MUA is both disgraceful and unAustralian. The MUA uses intimidation tactics against Qube customers that endanger Western Australian businesses, jobs and the economy. We have an agreement with the MUA since August 2020 in 25 of the 26 ports. This latest stunt by the Fremantle branch of the MUA in its failed campaign against Qube and its clients shows just how low they will go. We call on them again to get back to work, to accept the agreed salary increase and to honor the agreement reached with their national office.

Context of the situation

  • 134 full-time employees working for Qube at their Fremantle terminal earn an average of $139,500 per year for just 169 days of work, which equates to approx. 34 weeks a week. They also benefit from very favorable conditions, including the possibility of requesting up to 42 days of personal leave in addition to their standard leave.
  • In August 2020, Qube and the MUA reached a national agreement on the renewal of their existing company agreement, offering Qube employees a 2.5% year-over-year raise for 4 years.
  • All sites across the country have honored this agreement, with the exception of the MUA branch in Fremantle. The MUA Fremantle branch has 42 claims which it refuses to reduce and commenced industrial action on 30and July 2021.
  • The union says this industrial action is based on its demand to receive an allowance time of 1400 which is not in line with Qube customer contracts or the existing agreement or the rest of the country. The National MUA has received contracts that include the clause allowing the allocation of labor until 1600 local time and has agreed to this requirement. The 1600 distribution of labor has been part of the existing agreement since 1999.
  • The Qube Fremantle workforce is taking a protected industrial action because they do not want to accept the company agreement which has been reached at the national branch of MUA. This agreement has been voted on and accepted by all other Qube Ports employees.
  • Qube does not have lock out employees and continue to distribute employees in accordance with the existing company agreement. Employees choose not to come to work unless they are assigned in accordance with their 1400 request – which is not in line with their current agreement or commercially viable with existing customer contracts.
  • Qube asked the MUA national office to step in and honor the deal that was reached.
  • Qube continues to maintain ships at the Port of Fremantle using experienced employees. These employees are qualified and experienced for the tasks they perform. All employees are licensed portworkers and have completed the induction requirements required for the port of Fremantle.
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