The Guardian 19 October, 2005

Maritime workers defend jobs

Trucks arriving at the entrance of Glebe Island car terminal in Sydney last Friday morning were met by a picket line of about 100 union members. Earlier in the week Labor Premier Morris Iemma had announced that the terminal would close in 2008.

"This closure comes despite earlier assurances by the previous Premier Bob Carr to keep the facilities going at least until 2012 with a five year extension option on the lease", Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) official Robert Coombs told The Guardian.

The government has thrown the earlier commitment out of the window. "It affects the jobs of many hundreds of MUA workers", said Mr Coombs. "And it means basically the death knell of Sydney Harbour as a working harbour."

"Itís not only the wharfies who are affected in this particular dispute. They are the people who load and discharge cars, mainly discharge cars at the terminal. There are also a number of others who work in ancillary services like tugs, mooring and unmooring, like Port Authority workers, pilot cutter crews and the like."

"Of course we are very, very concerned about the job security prospects of those people currently engaged at Glebe Island and Darling Harbour and in ancillary services."

Mr Coombs said it was a threshold dispute for the union and that the MUA was determined to fight for the retention of Sydney Harbour as a working harbour and for the long-term job security prospects of those workers involved.

The maritime workers returned to work later in the day following an appearance in the Industrial Relations Commission. The Commission has instructed the parties to undertake discussions and to not engage in industrial action over the matter for three weeks when there will be a report back.

The NSW Government also appeared in the Commission and has vowed to engage in discussions with the MUA over the question of port closures.

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