Wharfies' peaceful protest wins jobs

Eden stevedoring company Australian Marshalling Services (AMS) has succeeded in getting four employees work on discharging the first of the Boco Rock Wind Farm components, after staging a peaceful protest on Sunday morning.

But AMS operations manager David Staight described the situation as a “pretty poor show”, saying the level of local input is far too low, and that he will continue to lobby the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) to increase AMS involvement.

Around 18 AMS employees staged a peaceful protest at the wharf on Sunday morning, after Port Kembla-based Patrick Ports and Stevedoring were nominated by shipping company Austral Asia Line (AAL) to unload the components, which arrived at the navy multipurpose wharf in Eden on Saturday.

After voicing their concerns, Mr Staight said four of his employees began working alongside Patrick’s workers to unload carrier AAL Gladstone on Tuesday.

“After a bit of pressure from us and the union in the initial stages, Patrick’s agreed to put two AMS guys on the day shift and two on the night shift,” he said.

“It’s only a token gesture and isn’t of any real significance, but I’ve spoken to Patrick’s and they’re going to review the situation in between this one finishing and the next vessel coming in.

“The best outcome for us is that we’re the primary contractors for this discharge, but the aim for now is integrating more of our guys in and eventually taking over from Patrick’s, and that’s what we’ll be pushing for.”

With the stevedoring contracts awarded on a ship-by-ship basis, and anywhere between six and nine vessels expected as part of stage one construction, AMS are hopeful of being awarded contracts down the track.

Mr Staight said Patrick’s have already secured work on the next vessel, scheduled to arrive on April 28.

Patrick’s were approached for comment, but did not return the Magnet’s calls.

“It’s very disappointing considering AMS has been here 11 years, and we’ve got about 25 guys on our books as casuals, and the yard has got probably 15 people with a mix of casuals and permanent staff,” Mr Staight said.

“We’re a big employer in this region, and we rely on these sorts of things to keep people in this area. 

“Something of this scale doesn’t happen very open, and most people who work for us string two or three casual jobs to keep them going, so this is a very important link for them in getting work.

“We haven’t done this type of discharge before, and there is obviously a pre-existing relationship between the shipping line and Patrick’s, but our guys are qualified and there is no reason that we couldn’t do it.”

Garry Keane, MUA southern NSW branch secretary, said the union is working with both AMS and Patrick’s, with the intention of integrating more local workers.

“We’ve got no dramas supporting a peaceful protest and working with our members,” Mr Keane said.

“Those guys from AMS and Patrick’s have no issue with each other as stevedores, and we’ll work with both groups and hopefully come to a solution.”

CWP Renewables Head of Development Ed Mounsey also spoke with representatives from the two companies on Tuesday, and said he was pleased to hear that the review will be conducted.

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