- Materials Handling
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The International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) and International Longshoremen’s Association (ILA) had a high-level meeting inWashington,D.C.on 12 September, which was also attended by ITF president and Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) national secretary Paddy Crumlin and ITF maritime coordinator Steve Cotton.
Mr Crumlin reported on the events leading up to Patrick Stevedores’ decision to fully automate its Port Botany Terminal inAustralia. Mr Crumlin said announcement of the decision took place shortly after the company entered into a new contract with the union, having not given the union any notice during the contract negotiations of the massive reduction proposed to the workforce. Patrick management contended it was not obliged to do so and would execute the change without any formal agreement with the union.
The meeting was unanimous in condemnation of this approach to introducing this type of change. The meeting determined that formal agreement between management and union had to be finalised before any further automation could take place in workplaces covered by the unions in attendance. The meeting determined that any other approach was effectively a form of union busting. To ensure that was not the case, mutually agreed outcomes on job security, retraining, union coverage of all new jobs created by the automation, and improvements to working conditions needed to be finalised between workplaces covered by the dockers’ unions in attendance.
The unions decided they would work with each other, the ITF and other dock workers, seafaring and transport unions around the world to build a campaign to stop attempts of union busting through automation, with the initial focus on the finalisation of the ILA contract and the Patrick Terminal at Port Botany.
“How automation is introduced has been established as an issue for all international dock workers, their employers and their shareholders and customers,” said MUA and ITF president Paddy Crumlin.
“We’re reassured by the strong support we are receiving to assist us to reach an acceptable negotiated outcome in our contract,” said ILA president Harold Daggett.
“We on the west coast (USA) are concerned at the approach of the employers inAustraliaand the east coast (USAthis meeting was about coordinating our response to these challenges and sticking together. This meeting correctly identified automation without negotiation is union busting,” said ILWU president Bob McEllrath.
“The ITF is committed to resourcing and supporting our affiliates inAustraliaand theUSto reach acceptable agreements,” said ITF maritime coordinator Steve Cotton.