Bloomberg News

Fremantle Ports Says 48-Hour Strike by Maritime Union Begins

December 01, 2011

(Updates with comment from company official in second paragraph.)

Dec. 1 (Bloomberg) -- Fremantle Ports, the operator of the harbor servicing the Western Australian state capital of Perth, said a 48-hour strike by a labor union demanding higher wages began today. Shipping movements haven’t been affected.

“We’ve maintained the schedule,” Fremantle Ports spokeswoman Ainslie de Vos said in a phone interview. About 34 movements, including container ships, general cargo vessels and bulk commodity carriers, were scheduled for the duration of the strike, which started at 5 a.m. local time today, she said.

Stoppages in Australia have increased since then-Employment Minister Julia Gillard led passage of the Fair Work Act two years ago. Days lost to industrial disputes tripled in the three months to June 30, according to government data, as unions sought higher pay and job security amid rising living costs.

Fremantle Ports operates Fremantle harbor, which handles almost all container trade for Western Australia, livestock exports and general cargo imports, and Kwinana, which processes bulk-commodity exports including grain, petroleum, liquid petroleum gas, alumina, mineral sands, fertilizers and coal.

Fremantle Ports handles A$26 billion ($26.7 billion) in trade a year, it said. Shipping disruptions due to the strike couldn’t be ruled out, de Vos said today.

Western Australian Minister for Transport Troy Buswell wrote to Prime Minister Gillard on Nov. 29 asking her to intervene to suspend the Maritime Union of Australia action through Fair Work Australia, the nation’s labor regulator.

Fremantle Ports’ offer to increase wages 4.75 percent annually over three years has been rejected by unionists, according to a copy of a letter e-mailed to Bloomberg News by the transport department.

Will Tracey, a spokesman for Maritime Union of Australia, didn’t respond to voicemail requests sent yesterday and today for comment.

--Editors: John Chacko, Indranil Ghosh

To contact the reporter on this story: Jason Scott in Perth at jscott14@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Edward Johnson at ejohnson28@bloomberg.net


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