HPA, MUA Extend Talks on Sacked Workers

 Stevedoring company Hutchison Ports Australia (HPA) and the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) today inked a new agreement to extend negotiations until November 16 as they continue conciliation proceedings in the Fair Work Commission (FWC).

The extension follows a six-week negotiation process of the two parties following the sacking of 97 wharfies last August.

The layoffs were prevented by the Australian Federal Court which granted a temporary injunction, ordering the workers’ return to work at least until the full court hearing of the dispute. However, the hearing was deferred as the two parties agreed to return to the negotiating table.

Under the terms agreed today, a new Enterprise Bargaining Agreement (EBA) will be negotiated and made by November 16. The date can be extended by mutual consent, HPA said.

As informed, both parties agreed that a voluntary redundancy program would be opened for workers in Brisbane and Sydney.

The parties also agreed that the Federal Court action brought by the MUA against HPA would be vacated, with each party bearing its own costs.

“This is not an easy time for our workers and the company. We have been working on solutions to keep the company viable and to demonstrate to the union how creating a sustainable long-term workforce is the only way forward for both the company and HPA’s workers,HPA Acting CEO Mark Jack said.

“We will continue to negotiate in good faith during this extended period and hope that the MUA and its members will cooperate to try to work out a solution in the best and balanced interest of all stakeholders including the workforce, the customers and the shareholders.

Jack said critical terms remained at issue, adding that a mutually agreeable outcome about the company’s future employment needs at Sydney and Brisbane port operations may not be achievable at all.

He also noted that the economic reality of a third operator on Australia’s eastern seaboard was that without creative thinking from all stakeholders, the future looked challenging.

Image: MUA