The recent sacking of 100 Hutchison Port Australia workers via text message last Thursday night, has resulted in protestors picketing outside the Brisbane and Sydney Ports 24 hours-a-day, 7 days-a-week, with the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) at the helm.
The protests have been further fuelled by Eric Albetz, Australian Foreign Employment Minister admitting that firing employees via text message was quite acceptable. He said this is the way the workers have communicated with their bosses in the past (Remeikis, 2015).
When asked to comment, the Hong Kong based Hutchison Port, said it was forced to downsize its Australian operations, and this decision had been made back in June. It also admitted using text message was an acceptable way it communicated with its workforce (Remeikis, 2015).
With the evidence of the protestors growing in numbers, Mr Albetz quickly tried to reposition himself and released a statement Saturday that said he wasn’t aware of this particular situation, and that it has been hard for the workers (Pupazzoni, 2015).
Maritime Union of Australia Queensland state secretary Bob Carnegie has voiced his shock with Mr. Albetz, and he said that a man in his position in government would have such an opinion, and that the damage has been done.
Queensland unions across the field have now joined forces with the MUA, in solidarity at the Brisbane berth on Saturday. Protests have also grown in numbers at Port Botany in Sydney.
The protest has been thought of as the biggest clash since the Patrick’s dispute in 1998, which ended with the high court finding in favour of the union’s case; which a workplace restructure was to dismiss unionised employees. Mr Carnegie said he expected the protest to grow even further by Monday (Remeikis, 2015).
The Fair Work Commission interim has ordered employees to stop industrial action, although this does not include the union. The hearing is scheduled for Monday. According to the ACTU (2015) the MUA is also seeking an injunction against the sackings in the Federal Court.
Remeikis, A 2015, ‘Union fury at eric abetz for defending port workers’ sacking by text’, The Sydney Morning Herald,8 August, viewed 8 August 2015, http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/union-fury-at-eric-abetz-for-defending-port-workers-sacking-by-text-20150808-giuplm.html#ixzz3mJTl9FZz
Pupazzoni, R 2015, Port workers form picket line at Port Botany after almost 100 employees sacked by email’, 7 August, viewed 8 August 2015, http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-08-07/almost-100-port-workers-sacked-by-email-in-sydney-and-brisbane/6679644
De Campo, C 2015, ‘Government leadership vacuum as 100 workers sacked by midnight email’, 7 August, viewed 1 September 2015, http://www.actu.org.au/actu-media/media-releases/2015/government-leadership-vacuum-as-100-workers-sacked-by-midnight-email