THE Maritime Union of Australia fears the Western Harbours Alliance proposal has the potential to undermine local workers’ rights and wages, while weakening environmental approvals.
The union’s WA branch secretary Christy Cain says they’re deeply concerned about the alliance’s use of the phrase “special labour laws” in a report prepared by InfraNomics earlier this year.
“The World Bank did a study on SEZs and found that even in the countries where domestic labour laws applied to the zones, they were hardly ever followed,” Mr Cain told the Herald.
“Employers inside the proposed SEZ boundaries like Alcoa and BP are using our current industrial relations system to try and cut employee wages and benefits.
“If given free rein to write their own rules, be they environmental standards or worker conditions and wages, we are not optimistic business will use the opportunity to strengthen worker’s rights, raise wages, and put stronger protections on the environment,” he said.
But Alliance chair Kim Dravnieks says companies won’t be able to set the labour laws, only the state government.
“There is no reference to business writing their own special labour laws for a special economic zone in the report,” Ms Dravnieks said.
Mr Cain said Western Australians should also be concerned about risks to the environment created by a SEZ.
“The business opportunities listed by WHA in their Tradeflows report include dredging [Cockburn] Sound to allow for very large crude oil carriers (supertankers) to navigate the waters, and the construction of an LNG terminal,” he said.
by STEVE GRANT and KAVI GUPPTA