The path is clear for the Western Australian Government to step up and facilitate a resolution to the protracted industrial dispute at Fremantle Port, says Australian Resources and Energy Group AMMA.
As a state which did not refer its industrial relations powers to the Commonwealth, which other states have done, Western Australia has taken the position there is “nothing they can do” to intervene and stop the CFMMEU Maritime Division’s (‘MUA’) damaging strike at Fremantle Port.
This is far from the case. Regulation 3.10 of the Fair Work Regulations allows the Minister responsible for industrial relations in a state “that is not a referring state” to make an application under s.424 of the Fair Work Act.
Section 424 allows the Fair Work Commission (FWC) to suspend or terminate protected industrial action on the grounds of significant damage being caused to the Australian economy or part of it.
“Western Australia has a clear pathway to apply to the FWC to cease the industrial action on grounds of serious economic damage,” Steve Knott AM, Chief Executive of AMMA, said.
“Qube has been in negotiation with the MUA since December 2019 to try and land a reasonable outcome from the additional 66 demands the West Australian branch slapped onto the agreement that was endorsed by the union’s national office.
“These employees are being paid on average $140,000 for 34 weeks’ of work. The agreement offers a 10% pay increase over four years, to which Qube port workers in every other part of the country have accepted.
“Instead, the WA maritime union bosses are refusing to budge on 20 outstanding, 1970s style ambit claims, which if agreed would have an unsustainable near 80% cost impact on the port operations.
“The union is also using international avenues to pressure Qube’s customers to avoid Fremantle and cause further economic damage not only to the company but to the state of Western Australia.
“Western Australia’s farmers and mining service suppliers are suffering serious commercial damage due to this protracted strike. The State needs to send a message that it will not allow its most important port to be held to ransom.”
AMMA understands the FWC declined to stop the strike at a hearing on Tuesday, with the State Government’s failure to provide evidence or even turn up contributing to that decision.
Should Western Australia make an application and provide the evidence required to stop the strike, it would clear the path for the FWC to arbitrate the bargaining dispute under section 240 of the Act.
“It was ridiculous for the FWC to propose the parties engage further in conciliation before Deputy President Binet. There is not a slither of hope this would resolve the dispute,” Mr Knott said.
“AMMA’s view is the matter must be arbitrated by a Full Bench of the Fair Work Commission. Qube has agreed to allow the FWC to independently arbitrate the dispute. If the MUA truly believes it’s claims are reasonable, it should agree to engage in this process.
“It is in nobody’s interest for this dispute to carry on any longer.”
MEDIA CONTACT: Brad Thompson, 0409 781 580