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Strike exposes basic failure of reform program



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JOHN SHARP ยท* * % & > * MEDIA RELEASE

FEDERAL MEMBER FOR GILMORE

SHADOW MINISTER FOR SHIPPING AND WATERFRONT REFORM

PARLIAMENT HOUSE, CANBERRA: Tel 06 2 7 7 4213, Fax 06 2 7 7 2124

STRIKE EXPOSES BASIC FAILURE O F REFORM PROGRAM

The current waterfront strike, tying up 20 ships at a cost of up to $600,000 per day, demonstrated the truth of what the Opposition maintained from the outset - that security of tenure or the wharfies' job for life guarantee must be ended. Until that happens, the Government's waterfront reform program will be nothing more than a half-hearted, union-controlled effort that will inevitably lead to failure.

$340 million of the taxpayers and waterfront users' money will have been wasted with absolutely no long-term structural reform and no tangible benefits for waterfront users because the Government failed to bite the bullet and abolish the indefensible and commercially disruptive special employment privileges of the wharfies.

It is only four months since the Government last "fixed" the surplus labour problem, and it has already resurfaced as no less a problem. Industry sources acknowledge that there is no other rational solution than ending security of tenure. The alternative is to pour more millions down the throats of wharfies.

The Opposition has maintained throughout that it was impossible for the stevedoring industry to maintain life-long job guarantees. The wharves are where the first impact of trade fluctuations are felt, and to deny stevedoring managers the ability to respond to

market fluctuations is absurd.

The luxury of the wharfies' security of tenure is funded through the iniquitous levies, which places the burden on the users (importers and exporters) in market down-turn periods, eroding international competitiveness at the very time when it is most essential.

The "spontaneous" strikes in Melbourne and Sydney and the threat now of industrial disruption in the other capital city ports also give the lie to Senator Collins' claims that the Government's waterfront reform period has been dispute-free. The waterfront has, in fact, been dispute-riddled during the reform period, with the yearly rate of days lost due to disputes having doubled to 1,507 days lost per thousand employees, or each wharfie now being on strike an average of one and a half days per year. This is six times

the all industries average!

The Government should have dealt with the security of tenure issue from the outset - its failure to do so has already cost several hundreds of millions and is still adding to that sum. To continue to refuse to face up to it will simply grind Australian producers into the non-competitive dust.

Ends.........WR28/92 29-4-92

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PARLIAMENTARY LIBRARY MICAH Contact: John Wallis

A/H 06 277 4213