The Australian Federal Court yesterday, 13 August, granted a temporary injunction preventing Hutchinson Ports Australia making 97 dockworkers in Brisbane and Sydney redundant.
Workers at both Hutchison’s Sydney and Brisbane terminals were sacked by text and email in the middle of the night of 6 August.
The Maritime Union of Australia took the matter to court, saying the sackings were in breach of the enterprise agreement. The union argued the company failed to consult with workers and ignored a dispute resolute clause.
Last night Justice Barry Rangiah found a prima facie case that the company was in breach of the agreement.
Since the night of the sackings dock workers, other unionists and community supporters have been holding pickets outside the terminal gates. At least two vessels were turned away. The dispute went before the Fair Work Commission last week with the workers defying an order that industrial action must stop. However, officials representing both Sydney and Brisbane Ports told IHS Maritime today that there had been no impact on other shipping at the ports.
Under the court order Hutchison’s Sydney International Container Terminals PL and Brisbane Container Terminal PL must pay “terminated employees” the base rate, as well as superannuation, leave benefits, income protection and payroll tax until the court case concludes.
Workers will be paid whether or not they are rostered on. However, the union will be required to repay the wages and entitlements if it loses in September.
In his decision, Judge Rangiah said: “The orders do not, contrary to the dramatic suggestion made by respondents (HPA), impose obligation on the respondents that may be likened to a form of reverse slavery.”
HPA has been refusing to return all media calls, but in a statement released last week, Chief Financial Officer Chee Keong Chan said, “HPA is currently incurring substantial financial losses [and] has been unable to secure market share with leading shipping lines.”
Workers today returned to their jobs until the full hearing before the court in September.