January 26, 2022

‘A Disgrace’: Australian Unions Fire Back at PM on Port Warning

The Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) has said the fact that Prime Minister Scott Morrison joined the “attack” from stevedoring companies against wharf workers and their families was a “disgrace.”

In a response to Morrison’s warning to the MUA that the government would intervene in future industrial action at ports if necessary, MUA national secretary Paddy Crumlin said stevedoring companies and international shipping lines were disguising the fact that they were reporting some of the highest profit margins in their history.

“To protect these profits, they have been prepared to attack and vilify the workers and their families who turn up every day to unload these ships,” Crumlin said.

Crumlin continued by accusing Morrison of lying in a “calculated, political attack” to cause “maximum anxiety” within the community.

“The Maritime Union will continue to negotiate in good faith with employers on the waterfront and advocate for good pay, job security and safety in the workplace for our members,” Crumlin said. “But what we don’t need is Scott Morrison sticking his head in and trying to create conflict on the waterfront in the lead up to Christmas as a distraction from his failure and lies.”

The Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) backed the MUA and said the prime minister was “seeking to stoke division,” when wharf workers were simply asking for basic job security and a reasonable pay rise.

“Australia has some of the lowest levels of industrial action in the developed world, and productivity in our ports is consistently above international benchmarks,” the ACTU said, adding that shipping companies used the pandemic to increase prices and profits.

Additionally, ACTU Secretary Sally McManus agreed with the MUA, noting that the multinational shipping companies were experiencing bumper profits while Australian wage growth remained low.

“We want political leaders to recognise this and to understand that it is not reasonable,” McManus said.

Morrison announced on Dec. 1 that a Productivity Commission inquiry would examine the broader issues with the productivity of Australian ports after the consumer watchdog revealed the long-existing inefficiencies in its own report.

The Australian Industry Group said the Productivity Commission into the ports was a positive development and should be “short and sharp.”

“The situation on our ports acts as a huge handbrake on our economy at a time when we need to be focusing on our recovery and making strong efforts to lift real incomes growth and competitiveness,” Ai Group CEO Innes Willox said.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said during the National Accounts conference that the government was keeping an eye on the situation because they don’t want supply chain constraints and industrial action to prevent Australians from receiving their Christmas presents.

“The unions should not be allowed to hold up Australians getting their presents at Christmas,” Frydenberg said.

Rebecca Zhu

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Rebecca Zhu is an Australian reporter based in Sydney. She focuses on the Australian economy, property, and education. Contact her at rebecca.zhu@epochtimes.com.au.

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