Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Unions' go-slow on Cairns negotiations

Download PDFDownload PDF





PARLIAMENT HOUSE, CANBERRA: Tel 06 277 4213, Fax 06 2 7 7 2 1 2 4



There has been virtually no progress in negotiations to resolve the inefficiencies in the port of Cairns.

Basic inefficiencies, including the requirement to work double-header shifts at punitive 2.5 times pay rather than utilise supplementary labour at 1.5 times or even normal pay remain.

Also outstanding is the issue of the employers right to select for recruitment - already agreed to in the CTAL Agreement in Sydney, but being resisted by the WWF in Cairns.

Restriction, under the Provisional Agreement, of the supplementary labour list to no more than ten skilled labour is also inadequate to deal with the extremes of the cargo fluctuation in Cairns, and has resulted in over-manning.

Other outstanding issues are mandatory overmanning on some cargoes, and inflexible rostering hours.

There are other inefficiencies to be dealt with in enterprise agreement negotiations - but to date the WWF has played a stone-walling game, leaving Cairns with a port that continues to live on borrowed time, with only a stop-gap compromise and no action being taken.

The WWF seems to be taking the attitude that the two-year duration of the Provisional Agreement for the port has a minimum life of two years.

This is despite the intention that it be superseded by an enterprise based agreement. The Provisional Agreement is intended only as a stop-gap measure until that happens.

The Provisional Agreement was only necessary because the unions and the principal stevedore operator in the port could not reach agreement - and because of a looming crisis that could have seen the major users desert the port and Australia as their supply centre, and plunge the port into non-viability.

Cairns has been lumbered with a Provisional Agreement that has neither the support of the stevedore operator, nor of the port users.

The operator has repeatedly approached the WWF to resume negotiations - including in writing on 7 May and again on 21 August - but without response.

The operator has now taken recourse to the Industrial Relations Commission, and a revised date for a meeting of the parties is now set for 27 September.

The WWF has used a litany of excuses to avoid discussions, including that they cannot proceed without a Federal representative of the WWF present and that the Federal representative is unavailable.

This is at odds with their practice in negotiations in at least some other ports, such as Darwin, where Federal representatives were more readily available or, when not, meetings were allowed to proceed without one.

The two-year time-frame of the Provisional Agreement was only an outside measure of the limit of tolerance - and it was an overly generous one at that!

By treating it as a life expectancy before which no further action is needed, the WWF is not only placing the users at ransom, but is placing the viability of the Port of Cairns at risk.

It is time that action proceeded in Cairns, as well as in other small regional ports - or the unions' playing for time will see the reform bus drive right on past and over the cliff.

Ends......WR92/91 13-9-91

Contact: John Wallis A/H 06 295 6796