Miners wade into port strike debate

The Morning Prosperity pulls out of Freo after failing to deliver its cargo. Photo courtesy Fremantle Ports.

ONE of Australia’s biggest mining lobby groups has called on WA premier Mark McGowan to intervene and bring an end to a wharfies’ strike in Fremantle.

The maritime branch of the CFMMEU has been in dispute with Qube Logistics for almost three months over a new enterprise agreement, particularly around the timing of shift allocations (“Qube tactic puts WA at Covid risk,” Herald, September 11, 2021).

The Australian Mines and Metals Association called the union’s action “industrial bastardry” which forced ships to bypass WA and delayed the delivery of necessary plant and equipment.

AMMA chief executive Steve Knott agreed with the CFMMEU that the dispute was increasing WA’s Covid risk by increasing the number of truckies coming into the state, but laid the blame at the union’s feet.

“It’s highly irresponsible for the CFMMEU to block the unloading of large international cargo carriers at Fremantle port at a time when interstate movement of freight is difficult, costly and a proven risk of introducing Covid-19 in virus-free regions,” Mr Knott said.

“With the Western Australian government set to mandate Covid-19 vaccinations for all resources sector workers – an initiative AMMA supports and welcomes – it beggars belief the state would wash its hands of this industrial dispute and put all responsibility on the Commonwealth.

“Premier Mark McGowan must write to the president of the Fair Work Commission seeking, as per section 423 of the Fair Work Act, to put a stop to the industrial action on the basis that it is causing significant economic harm.”

The Herald contacted Mr McGowan’s office mid-September about the Covid risk, but only got an unattributed statement back: “The government is continuing to monitor the situation and encourages Qube and the MUA to work constructively to find a solution to the industrial dispute.”

But we did hear our previous article was flashed around next day at high-level Health Department Covid briefing.

Most of the equipment is being offloaded in Victoria, which is currently listed as an “extreme” Covid risk by the WA government.

Truckies crossing the border into WA must have had at least their first Covid jab and provide a negative test from 72 hours before they left home. They are also required to undergo regular Covid testing while in WA.

Fremantle Ports said three roll-on, roll-off ships with mining and farming equipment bypassed WA this week.

Ports CEO Michael Parker said it was concerning for local trade, while major shipping lines might lose confidence. 

“We’re extremely disappointed that a major customer of ours and numerous importers and exporters have been caught up in the latest round of industrial action to hit our wharves, particularly given existing global supply chain congestion,” he said.

by STEVE GRANT and CAIN ANDREWS

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