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Templeman Calls for Ferry Contractor to Negotiate

Feb 16, 2024

Federal Member for Macquarie, Susan Templeman, has called on Birdon Vehicular Ferries to engage in negotiations with the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) and Transport for NSW, amidst concerns over fair wages for ferry workers and potential community inconvenience.

Birdon, the contractor responsible for operating Webbs Creek, Wisemans Ferry, and Sackville ferry services on behalf of Transport for NSW which have been subject to ongoing industrial action.

“There are two real issues in play here – workers operating these vital ferry services deserve to be fairly paid, and no one wants to see the community inconvenienced further because of Birdon’s unwillingness to negotiate,” Ms Templeman said.  

“I urge Birdon to do the right thing and engage in meaningful negotiations with the MUA and Transport for NSW,” she said. 

Commuters using the Sackville Ferry service are advised to prepare for increased disruptions as a dispute between wire-drawn ferry operators and Birdon unfolds. Ongoing industrial action has already led to limited services and delays, with Maritime Union organizer Shane Reside warning of a potential escalation. Birdon’s failure to present a pay offer after six months of negotiations is cited as a key point of contention. Other issues include work, life balance, unpaid long service leave and inappropriate clothing for the hot conditions.

Additionally the Union said that traffic controllers are being used to cover at least two shifts each week which is in breach of the regulations and forcers ferry operators to work without taking propert breaks. “This is systematic unsafe staffing,” the Union said in a statement. 

“It’s getting to the point where the ferries aren’t going to be running at all because the company isn’t taking our concerns seriously,” Reside told the Hawkesbury Post last month. Efforts to resolve the situation amicably have been hindered by Birdon’s lack of engagement, he said.

Ferry workers, in addition to improved working conditions, are advocating for Equal Pay for Equal Work, highlighting that they are among the lowest-paid ferry workers in Australia. The union is pushing for a pay increase to $46 per hour, aligning with industry rates, up from the current $31 per hour.

The ongoing industrial action coincides with the temporary suspension of the Lower Portland Ferry on January 29 for a minimum of three months, undergoing maintenance to maintain its commercial license for public service operation.


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