THE STRIKE action being carried out by Cruise Whitsundays staff doesn’t seem to be going away, with the latest round set to last for seven days.
The latest strike action started on Wednesday (September 20) and follows previous industrial action last week (Friday, September 15), which lasted for 24 hours.
Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) representative Dave Lyon said staff contacted the union for advice after the company ‘flatly refused’ to enter into negotiations with staff, when the current enterprise agreement expired about 18 months ago.
“We were issued bargaining orders around about Christmas, and it took another three months, being March 2023, to get a meeting,” Mr Lyon, who is assistant branch secretary, said.
Mr Lyon said the company had sent out a proposed employment contract to all staff, which was voted on and rejected by 87% of staff members, according to Mr Lyon.
“That’s a pretty outstanding no,” he said.
The union and the company met again on Monday (September 18) where an offer was made by the company and rejected by the union.
“So, we went to protected industrial action,” Mr Lyon said.
The second lot of strike action started on Wednesday (September 20) with a number of staff members turning out to picket alongside their colleagues.
At first, they were positioned close to the Maritime Terminal and then they progressed into the Airlie Beach main street.
A 19-year-old deckhand, who did not want to be named, said there were a ‘multitude of different reasons’ he was striking.
“I would like to be paid closer to, or equal to the amount of, other companies in the area,” the deckhand, who has worked for Cruise Whitsundays for two years, said.
“I’d like to be paid a similar amount to them…something more than the bare minimum.”
The strike action has led to the cancellation of several Cruise Whitsundays tours, due to ‘staff shortages’.
In a statement, Cruise Whitsundays said the company had been in ‘active discussions’ with employees and MUA for the past 12 months to negotiate a new enterprise agreement.
“During this time, Cruise Whitsundays has implemented pay increases totalling six per cent,” the statement read.
“The new wage offer, which was proposed to take immediate effect, would see crew pay rates between 4.8 per cent to 44.4 per cent above award, depending on their position, skill level and tenure. Further increases have also been proposed across the life of the agreement.
“The MUA claims a ’30 per cent disparity in wages’ between Cruise Whitsundays and other workers in the same industry but has provided no data or wage comparisons to other local businesses with Marine Tourism as their core business.
“While Cruise Whitsundays has continued to negotiate in good faith, presenting fair and sustainable offers, the MUA is steadfast in demanding an uplift of 30 per cent in pay rates across the board.”
The statement went on to say that the company was ‘saddened for the many holidaymakers who have been left disappointed by the extreme measures taken by the MUA’.
“We endeavour to keep critical services in operation as a priority and sincerely apologise for any inconvenience this may cause,” the statement said.
“We remain hopeful that we can reach a positive resolution with our employees soon.”