Fremantle Port Workers Friday Strike to Cost $3 Million Hourly

Fair Work Australia (FWA) may likely have another tough labor dispute to handle soon following the collapse of talks between Fremantle Port workers and management. The port workers have announced a 48-hour strike beginning at dawn of Friday.

Due to the impact of work stoppage on port operations, estimated at $3 million worth of trade every hour, Western Australia Minister for Transport Troy Bushwell wrote as early as Tuesday to Prime Minister Julia Gillard. He called for the federal government to intervene in the labor dispute, similar to what it did for Qantas, by suspending the Maritime Union of Australia industrial action.

Based on the 48-hour strike notice made by the port workers, Fremantle said 34 shipping movements with a total value of $144 million would be affected by the strike. The strike will begin at 5 a.m. of Friday and end 5 a.m. of Sunday.

"A 48-hour stoppage would be a major blow for retailers depending on timely pre-Christmas deliveries of imported goods for department stores and supermarkets.... It would be a major concern, also, for exporters operating on highly competitive markets," Fremantle Chief Executive Officer Chris Leatt-Hayter said in a statement.

Fremantle Port operates the Fremantle harbor in Western Australia which includes container trade, livestock exports and general cargo imports, and the Kwinanan harbor which processes bulk-commodity exports such as grain, petroleum, liquid petroleum gas, alumina, mineral sands, fertilizers and coal.

The negotiations bogged after the port workers turned down the Fremantle offer of a 4.75 per cent annual wage hike over the next three years. However, bargaining representative Will Tracey said the workers are willing to defer the wage issue but want a chance in their work shifts which runs 12 hours for four days. Although their previous agreement provides for four days of, they are on call for two of these four off days.

In effect, they are working six days a week, plus a lot of overtime.

Mr Tracey also pointed out that vessel traffic officers and transport pilot workers were paid up to 20 per cent less than their counterparts in Sydney and Melbourne.

Ms Gillard's spokeswoman advised the Western Australia government to apply directly to FWA to intervene in Fremantle's labor dispute.

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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