The Guardian • Issue #2064

MUA rallies for respect for workers

  • The Guardian
  • Issue #2064
Wind mill – wind energy.

Photo: (CC0)

Australian maritime workers converged in Melbourne to rally at the Australia Wind Energy conference at South Wharf, to draw attention to the actions of global energy giant Orsted, a Danish multinational company that constructs wind and solar farms, energy storage facilities and renewable hydrogen infrastructure.

Orsted has projects around the globe, including in Scandinavia, the United Kingdom, and the United States. They are also poised to become a major player in the burgeoning offshore wind sector around the Australian coastline.

Orsted is currently locked in a dispute overseas with the ILA (International Longshoreman’s Association), the union representing dockworkers on the American East Coast, and is trying to lock out the union and the existing workforce from new jobs at its New London, Connecticut wharf.

The Maritime Union of Australia’s National Secretary, Paddy Crumlin, and Assistant National Secretary, Adrian Evans, are presently overseas visiting International Longshoremen’s Association representatives in Florida where the conduct of Orsted and other offshore wind developers will feature heavily in international discussions between unions.

While the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) welcomes growth of new renewable energy zones such as those announced in the Hunter, Gippsland, and Southern Ocean areas in New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia, the development of renewable energy infrastructure must be done in a way which delivers secure, safe, and rewarding long-term employment for workers in the maritime, energy and offshore resources sectors.

“If Orsted want to take on dockworkers around the globe they take on all of us. An attack on the ILA’s jurisdiction on the American East Coast will not be tolerated by the MUA here in Australia, because an attack on one of us is an attack on us all,” said the MUA’s Deputy National Secretary, Warren Smith.

Orsted are proponents of a new offshore wind cluster in the Gippsland region of the Victorian coast, with a proposal to install 5.6GW of generation capacity. Their proposal trumpets over 6000 new jobs in Victoria.

“The MUA expects to be fully engaged and consulted on by Orsted during the implementation and development of their offshore wind installation in the Gippsland region, and the new jobs this company is touting should be well-paid, skilled, safe and sustainable, which means they should be good union jobs from day one,” said the MUA’s Victoria Branch Secretary, Robert Lumsden.

“When Orsted commence operations in Australia they must understand that maritime workers, dockers and energy workers throughout the globe are united in a collective demand for clean energy jobs that are sustainable not just on an environmental basis but socially and economically sustainable for the workforces and their families that will ultimately deliver them. Orsted must start from a position of respecting the jurisdiction of unions wherever they commence new projects, and the MUA will monitor closely the way in which Orsted conducts itself both overseas and locally,” said Smith.

The MUA is calling on Orsted to sign union agreements with all unions with coverage of work required in the development and ongoing operation of offshore wind in Australia, including the MUA, the Electrical Trades Union, the Plumbing and Pipe Trades Employees Union, the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union, and the CFMEU Construction Division.

The key demands by the MUA are:

  • Orsted must respect dockworkers and negotiate union agreements with the US east coast dockworkers union, the ILA, for all US east coast offshore wind projects;
  • Orsted must stop excluding dockworkers from its new wharf in New London, Connecticut, and train the dockworkers who have worked in the port for the last 100 years to operate the new wharf cranes and wharf transport machinery;
  • Orsted must also sign union agreements with all the relevant Australian unions for any offshore wind projects it is licenced to build in Australia.
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