Hutchison Ports Australia, a subsidiary of the Hong Kong-based Hutchison Port Holdings, closed its Sydney and Brisbane terminals and stopped all activities after sacking around 100 out of its 224 dockworkers via an email sent around midnight August 6, local time.
Local police have been brought in to watch over the Hutchison workers picketing outside the company’s terminal in Port Botany. There are guards on the gates and workers not allowed to enter the terminal, according to the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA).
MUA said that it utterly rejects the suggestion that the company is reducing its Australian operations due to a lack of competitiveness and loss of stevedoring contracts, and that this is a strategy to increase automation as there are no logical reasons why the company would otherwise give away profitable contracts as they have done recently.
MUA’s Assistant National Secretary Warren Smith also said the company had not lost contracts and that the company was subcontracting vessels to Patrick and DP World.
“This is a manipulation and a rort by Hutchison that we will fight to the end,” Smith said during last Monday’s protests in Port Botany.
“Manipulating contracts and colluding with the other port operators in order to manufacture redundancies is just not acceptable. This is a plot to remove union delegates and activists and bring in a disposable, casual, pliable workforce when the contracts mysteriously reappear. Hutchison ought to know that the MUA is not naïve to its tactics and we are gearing up to fight for the long-haul.”