Workers sacked by SMS push into fourth day of protests

by Miklos Bolza10 Aug 2015
The decision to lay off almost 100 workers on Thursday night via SMS and email has led to a disastrous series of events for Hutchison Ports Australia (HPA).
Affected workers have now entered into the fourth day of picketing at the Sydney International Container Terminals (SICTL) which is operated by HPA. The employees are supported by the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) which has said terminations like these were “not the Australian way”.
HPA released a statement over the weekend explaining its actions. “After a consultation process, this redundancy program has now commenced. Unfortunately, it will result in 97 job losses between Sydney and Brisbane,” Chee Keong Chan, the firm’s chief financial officer, wrote.
“This has been a difficult decision and follows our announcement six weeks ago that the company is downsizing its service offering to the market.”
The statement also said that HPA had incurred heavy financial losses recently as it had been unable to “secure market share with leading shipping lines already committed to the existing operators under long-term contracts”.
The MUA has claimed that this decision was due to an HPA strategy to completely automate its workforce. HPA has denied this allegation however.
The Fair Work Commission (FWC) has been called to intervene on this issue. At 8.30pm on Friday, president of the FWC, Anna Booth, issued an interim order for employees to cease all industrial action.
“About 8:30pm her honour Deputy President Booth issued interim orders directing the employees of HPA to cease all forms of industrial action,” an HPA spokesperson said.
The MUA have refused to comply with this order with picket lines continuing today.
These events have affected both HPA and their clients with the firm writing the following on their site: “Please be advised the terminal has experienced labour issues last night and today and due to this the terminal will be closed for all timezones. SICTL wishes to apologise for the inconvenience.”
Since then, HPA has requested a hearing by the FWC under section 418 which gives the FWC the power to order the cessation of illegal industrial action. This hearing is expected to occur at 5.30pm today.
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