MELBOURNE, Australia — Some 90 dockworkers, members of the Maritime Union of Australia, and their supporters rallied outside the gates of Qube Ports’ Webb Dock car terminal here April 8. The 145 workers at Qube, who unload imported vehicles, struck for four days to protest the company’s drive to terminate their union agreement.
“The main issues are over working conditions,” said Andrew Martin, one of the union delegates, who has been a temporary worker with the company for just over a year. Nearly 70 percent employed by Qube at this port are casuals.
Workers on the picket line explained that fatigue and safety are the big questions. The company can schedule workers on a 12-hour night shift with only an eight-hour break before coming back on day shift. Many drive an hour to get to work.
Workers who unload bulk cargo at Qube’s nearby Appleton terminal face some of the most dangerous conditions on the docks. “There is nowhere to move in the hold out of the swing of the crane, you have to be alert,” Martin said. Three dockworkers have been killed in the last 15 years at Appleton Dock.
Permanent workers at Qube used to get an unpaid week off after seven weeks of shift work, but the company took this away three years ago, when there was less work. Since hiring has now picked up, workers are demanding this practice be reinstated.
“It’s important to win solidarity,” Martin said. “All the bosses are looking at this fight. We need to win for everyone.”