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Rolling Strikes Shut Down Ferries Across Sydney

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Ferries

Starting from Monday at 11 am a series of strikes are set to shut down wire-drawn ferries across Sydney this week as negotiations between the Maritime Union of Australia and the private ferry operator, Birdon, break down.

“The wire-drawn vehicle ferries at Berowra Waters, Wisemans Ferry, Webbs Creek, Sackville and Mortlake provide an invaluable service to our communities,” said Shane Reside, MUA Sydney Branch Organiser.

According to Shane, thousands of residents who live throughout those communities would be stranded if it weren’t for these vital links across the river.

“It’s disgraceful that such a massive, well-capitalized company like Birdon is paying the workers that operate these vessels the absolute minimum they can legally get away with.”

“For decades the NSW Government and Transport for NSW have outsourced the operation of these ferries via a tender process that created – by design – a race to the bottom on wages and conditions,” added Shane.

“It’s not right for State Governments to pour taxpayers’ cash into the pockets of huge corporations like Birdon while ordinary workers providing a public service are on the absolute legal minimums.  The Union won’t tolerate it, workers have had enough and the community is sick of it.”

Shane highlighted that they do not want to shut these ferries down and that these operators are professionals who are extremely proud of the service they provide to their communities.

“Extraordinarily, during last-minute talks last week, Birdon management flatly refused to even make a wage offer.  They have left us with two choices: accept being treated like second-class citizens while this company profiteers from public money or have the self-respect to stand up for what is right.  What would you choose?”

However, even though these operators are Ferry Masters responsible for the operation of large vessels carrying cars, trucks and passengers, they are paid less than the average deckhand on Sydney Harbour according to Shane.

“By Birdon’s admission, a traffic controller on a building site in the city is getting paid 50% more than these operators to hold a stop sign and direct traffic.  In what universe is that a fair situation?  All these workers are seeking is equal pay for equal work.”

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Menchie Khairuddin is a writer Deputy Content Manager at Akolade and content producer for Third Sector News. She is passionate about social affairs specifically in mixed, multicultural heritage and not-for-profit organisations.

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