Thoughts with port workers: Premier

Premier Mark McGowan following a visit to Esperance Port in July, 2018. Photo: Jesinta Burton.
Premier Mark McGowan following a visit to Esperance Port in July, 2018. Photo: Jesinta Burton.

Premier Mark McGowan said his thoughts were with the workers at Esperance Port, as Southern Ports Authority prepare to confirm offers of redundancy for 18 staff today, September 14.

Southern Ports confirmed they had opened expressions of interest for voluntary redundancy after an agreement between Mineral Resources, the state government, Southern Ports Authority and Cliffs was finalised on August 28.

Mr McGowan said the state government had worked hard to protect jobs and would continue to work closely with new mine owner Mineral Resources Limited.

“We have worked hard to protect as many local jobs as possible,” he said.

“My government will work closely with Mineral Resources Limited to ensure economic activity continues in the region and exports continue to be shipped out of Esperance Port.

“It is never easy seeing job losses and my thoughts are with those workers and their families who are considering taking a redundancy.”

With iron ore through the port expected to continue at almost half the volume received in 2015 and 2016, Southern Ports Authority acting chief executive officer Alan Byers said there was not enough work to support the current workforce.

“The fact this trade has been able to continue, with a relatively short time between the final iron ore shipment from Cliffs in June, and the expected first shipment from Mineral Resources in November, is good news,” he said.

“Had the state government not gone in to secure this deal between Mineral Resources Limited and Cliffs, we may well be facing a very different situation today.

“Every effort has been made to retain as many Port jobs as possible, but the truth is we are not going to have enough work to support our current workforce.”

This is a big decision to make and the union will gladly assist anyone who feels that they need further help.

Maritime Union of Australia assistant branch secretary Jeff Cassar.

The announcement follows the resumption of operations at the Koolyanobbing iron ore mine under Mineral Resources and coincides with the closure of the WorkSafe investigation into bullying allegations at Southern Ports.

The Esperance Express understand that Southern Ports were issued with several improvement notices as a result.

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Southern Ports Chair Rob Cole welcomed the closure of the investigation and said he hoped it would allow the company to move forward.

“Completion of this investigation is a significant milestone and we are working with priority to develop an action plan to address the matters raised in the improvement notices,” he said.

“It is my hope the conclusion of this investigation is a line in the sand from which we can move forward together.”

Mr Byers confirmed that the authority had been consulting with the Maritime Union of Australia and employee representatives to determine a way forward following the change in trade.

Esperance Port. Photo: Supplied.

Esperance Port. Photo: Supplied.

Maritime Union of Australia assistant branch secretary Jeff Cassar said although it appeared that the process was happening quickly, workers had been aware that redundancies were coming several months ago.

“As opposed to the first round of redundancies, this process has been transparent and above board,” he said.

“It’s fair to say that they’ve had one week’s worth of notice but they’ve been on notice that this was coming for several months – this was no secret.

“The truth of the matter is that there will be people there who want to stay at the Port but will now that if the Port doesn’t get enough voluntary redundancies then there might be a negative impact on the hours and, therefore, their salaries.

“If these people are made redundant, there is every chance that the Port will need their skills again down the track.

“This is a big decision to make and the union will gladly assist anyone who feels that they need further help.”

It is expected the last day of work for staff who took a redundancy will be next Friday, September 21.

Southern Ports Authority have confirmed that they will reimburse financial counselling advice for staff.