Wharfies at Fremantle have refused to work on a vessel that doesn't comply with minimum safety standards and say their employer Patrick has responded with “standover tactics”.
Maritime Union of Australia WA branch deputy secretary Adrian Evans says the work area in the MSC-operated vessel's walkway is insufficient.
It puts wharfies working among heavy lashing gear, which holds containers to the deck, at risk of back injuries, as there isn't enough room for them to bend at the knees to lift 15kg lashing bars above their heads.
WorkSafe agrees it is non-compliant, Mr Evans says.
“So the guys obviously refused to work that vessel and were available to work another vessel, which is right alongside,” he said.
“Patrick in their wisdom - rather than try to work through the issue - has resorted to industrial thuggery and stood down the workers on evening shift last night, night shifts last night and again on day shift today.
“They haven't acknowledged there's a genuine safety issue there.”
Patrick is being sought for comment.
Mr Evans said back injuries were a key safety issue for port workers, in some case causing men as young as 30 to be unable to work again.
The MUA is holding rallies in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide, Darwin and Devonport today, but not in Perth, where other union meetings are being held.
The union is calling on the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry to cease a campaign against waterfront safety reforms, saying it has intervened in the development of the National Stevedoring Code of Practice.