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Asciano to axe workforce with Port Botany expansion
19/07/2012 - Asciano will axe half its Sydney workforce as it expands and automates its Port Botany container terminal. Kim Christian
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About 270 jobs will be made redundant once the $348 million project to increase capacity at the terminal by more than a third is completed in 2014.
The ports and rail operator says the expansion will transform the facility into a world-class automated operation with four berths and 1.4 kilometres of quay line, delivering savings of $50 million per year.
Chief executive John Mullen said while Asciano had operated automation technology in Brisbane for several years, it was focused on making its biggest investment to date in Sydney.
However uncertainty remains about whether Asciano will take its expansion and automation plans further south to Melbourne.
Mullen said Asciano couldn't make a decision on Melbourne until capacity issues were resolved.
"Melbourne runs pretty well and yes, maybe one day in the future we'd look at it, but right now we don't have any plans," he told reporters.
Asciano, which owns the Patrick terminals and logistics business, will introduce automated straddle carriers to move containers at Port Botany.
The straddle carriers are already used at Asciano's Brisbane terminal and do not require any one to operate them.
The changes will mean the majority of the terminal will be fully automated, except for crane unloading and reloading.
As a result, 270 jobs will go from Asciano's 511-strong Sydney workforce.
The Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) said the company had previously issued assurances that the expansion would not result in job losses.
"Patrick gave us commitments, time and time again when the question was asked about the introduction of new technology, that they would be investing in up to 20 straddles that would be manned by human beings," MUA Sydney branch secretary Paul McAleer told reporters.
He said it was too early to rule strike action in or out.
Asciano's upgrade plan comes three months after it reached agreement with the MUA on a new enterprise agreement for container terminal workers across Australia.
The agreement was struck following 20 months of negotiations, and strike and industrial action that cost Asciano more than $15 million.
While Asciano looks to automate more of its east coast terminals, its operations in Fremantle are understood to be a lower priority given its smaller size and lower levels of return.
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