The West

Martin Ferguson. Picture: The West Australian/Michael Wilson

Industrial tensions have reached fever pitch amid union calls for former Labor minister Martin Ferguson to be expelled from the ALP.

The Maritime Union of Australia lashed out at Mr Ferguson over his calls for tougher workplace laws and attack on the "continued ratcheting up of wages and conditions".

Mr Ferguson, now an advocate for the oil and gas industry, said this week Australia could price itself out of the LNG market, partly because of its industrial relations policies and inefficient regulations.

He said PM Tony Abbott's industrial changes were a step in the right direction but did not go far enough.

Mr Ferguson added to his comments yesterday by accusing the MUA in WA of being a "rogue union" and of killing off jobs for future generations.

He said high MUA wage claims and restrictive work practices added to delays and a $2 billion blowout to the Gorgon project.

MUA WA secretary Chris Cain said Mr Ferguson, once the head of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, was a "traitor to working class people".

Mr Cain said Mr Ferguson did not deserve to be a member of the Labor Party.

He defended seafarers' generous salaries, claiming labour costs were less than one per cent of total costs of major projects.

He denied the union was killing off jobs, claiming it was protecting them through campaigns to promote training and stop the unnecessary use of cheap foreign labour.

Speaking at a Perth conference, Mr Ferguson further increased tensions by saying he did not support weekend penalty rates but preferred low-paid, weekday workers getting more pay.

He also said there was not enough will or leadership to support a new wages accord.

Employment Minister Eric Abetz said Mr Ferguson's comments gave him confidence that the Government's industrial relations policies were on the right track. He said he expected Labor leader Bill Shorten and the Greens to support the "modest" and "sensible" changes.

The West Australian

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