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Beer stash in pump room may bring on ferry strike

The discovery of a secret stash of beer and girlie magazines in an off-limits machinery room on a Sydney ferry wharf may lead to industrial action threatening the Manly ferry service.

Management alleged ferry deckhands have been using the hydraulic pump room on Manly Wharf to drink alcohol, read men’s magazines and smoke cigarettes while on duty. The pump room, housing machinery that operates the two heavy, metal passenger ferry loading ramps at the wharf, was subsequently locked by management on Friday, July 25.

But the deckhands’ union, the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA), said this could hamper passenger safety because employees needed to get into the room quickly if there was a mishap with the ramps.

The day the pump room was locked, deckhands called a lightning stopwork meeting to express health and safety concerns. The meeting delayed the 2.45pm sailing by nearly 20 minutes. "There was a discovery on July 4 of a fridge full of alcohol, girlie magazines and cigarette butts in the pumphouse at Manly Wharf," a State Transit spokesman said.

"This is a direct breach of State Transit policy and the employees’ code of conduct in relation to alcohol and smoking on duty." The spokesman said that on July 25 the MUA demanded the lock on the pump room be removed or they "would pull services out". He said deckhands had use of a fully equipped staff tearoom or crib room. "The pump room is a pump room," he said.

"State Transit is aware of its community obligations, particularly with regard to its no-smoking and no-alcohol policy for staff in its depots, wharves or premises. "The issue of no alcohol on State Transit premises is vital to ensuring public and staff confidence in the delivery of transport services to our customers: the general public."

State Transit said its on-site manager at Manly Wharf had access to the pump room in case of an emergency. It is understood the matter may end up in front of the NSW Industrial Relations Commission as a health and safety issue.

Union state secretary Robert Coombs said he was told some items had been found in the pump room. "I recognise there was some beer in there, but it was hot and certainly wasn’t in a fridge or anything like that. "There were a couple of girlie magazines apparently there, but they were very, very old ones."

Mr Coombs said the union had safety concerns if the pump room was locked by management.

Jim O’Rourke

Sidney Morning Herald - 3 August 2003
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