Hunter Workers is backing the Newcastle branch of the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) in its stand-off with local company GrainCorp.
The MUA asserts the grain storage corporation has been caught secretly preparing a “scab workforce” at its Port of Newcastle operations after recently rejecting a 5% pay rise.
It is understood GrainCorp, facing the threat of strikes as negotiations heat up, brought a labour hire firm into the port this week to assess its suitability for a “takeover”.
That action alone infuriated the Maritime Union of Australia.
“This behaviour is nothing short of disgusting,” local secretary Glen Williams said.
“GrainCorp posted a record profit during the first half of this year, with a net profit after tax of $246 million, and their first action is to train up scabs and develop a plan to lock out their existing workforce.
“Any other company would offer their employees a fair pay rise for the contribution made to their massive profitability.
“But, the management of GrainCorp don’t want to share a cent of it with the people whose hard work has actually driven these profits.”
Mr Williams claimed, after two consecutive bumper crops from farmland throughout the east coast of Australia, GrainCorp’s fortunes had further risen on the back of conflict in Ukraine, which have driven up grain prices worldwide.
“Not only is their record profit for the half-year to March 2022 almost five times higher than the corresponding period last year, they’re on track for an overall net profit after tax of $370 million for the 2021-2022 financial year, 2.66 times higher than the previous financial year,” he said.
“However, over the past decade, often under drought conditions, GrainCorp workers at Newcastle port have accepted minimal pay increases below CPI.
“With inflation running at more than 5% this year and record profitability for the company, long term employees have been looking forward to a pay rise that kept pace with the cost of living and rewarded them for their many years of loyal service to the company.
“This is a perfect illustration of a management class that is totally out of control and totally deluded about the underlying causes of their commercial success.
“The last thing they should be doing off the back of their incredible run of good fortune is seeking to replace their workers with scab labour while they bargain for a new employment agreement.”
The MUA’s stance was applauded by Hunter Workers.
“We fully support the union and maritime employees,” secretary Leigh Shears said.
“The rights of workers to negotiate with their employer for improvements in their wage and working conditions need be respected by the employers of our region.
“Hunter Workers strongly encourages GrainCorp managing director and CEO Robert Spurway to return to good faith bargaining and drop plans to undermine the legal rights of maritime workers.
“Scab labour was forced to leave the Newcastle waterfront after community protests blockaded buses carrying a non-union workforce attempting to cross picket lines during the 1998 dispute, demonstrating this type of behaviour by employers will not be tolerated.
“It is unacceptable GrainCorp would consider employing such tactics that do not meet community expectations of fair and reasonable treatment of workers in our region.
“Mr Spurway’s decision also demonstrates a disconnection from the mood of Hunter communities’ overwhelming support for workers’ rights, secure jobs and wage increase.”