Photo: Illustration; Image Courtesy: Port of Newcastle

Wharfies Stop Work at Port of Newcastle over New Crane

Wharfies from three stevedoring companies at the Port of Newcastle, Australia, have held a 4-hour stop work meeting to protest the arrival of a new bulk unloading crane that could threaten job security, according to the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA).

Work was halted after the port management decided to stop wharfies from driving the new crane.

According to MUA, workers agreed to fight against the Port of Newcastle plans to employ its own workforce which would effectively be a fourth stevedoring operator and undermine the work and available hours in the port for existing stevedoring companies and workers.

“The MUA has demanded the Port of Newcastle withdraw its plans to exclude existing wharfies from their current work,” Warren Smith, MUA assistant national secretary, said.

“Management must also consult with stakeholders to ensure any new equipment in the Port of Newcastle is designed to improve overall port productivity, but not at the expense of the working people of Newcastle and their community.”

Workers have also pledged to fight for securing a union port compact for all port development including the K2 crane and future container terminal construction and operation.

A Port of Newcastle spokesperson said the port invested AUD 35 million (USD 23.6 million) in a ship unloader “that incorporates the latest safety and environmental compliance features and will deliver efficiencies for customers.”

“Stevedore employees experience a high degree of casualisation. Port of Newcastle is interested in creating a number of full-time positions for wharf and crane operators that would provide workers with greater job security and the education and training required to support the operation of the new ship unloader.”

The spokesperson added that the port has initiated discussions with the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) regarding the project. The discussions are at a very early stage, however.