Privatised Port of Newcastle restructures its workforce to grow and diversify

REBUILDING: Port of Newcastle chief executive Geoff Crowe, photographed in April. Plans to restructure the business involve redundancies, even though the workforce will increase by four positions. Picture: Simon McCarthy
REBUILDING: Port of Newcastle chief executive Geoff Crowe, photographed in April. Plans to restructure the business involve redundancies, even though the workforce will increase by four positions. Picture: Simon McCarthy

THE privately owned Port of Newcastle has moved to restructure its organisation, abolishing 18 positions but creating another 22 as it moves to grow and diversify operations in the world’s biggest coal port.

Some employees have told the Newcastle Herald they are unhappy with the process, saying they felt intimidated and rushed into deciding whether to take redundancy or apply for new positions, at least some of which will be advertised to the market.

The Port of Newcastle says the restructure and any redundancies are being handled according to the organisation’s enterprise agreement but chief financial officer Simon Gelder said in a June 4 email to staff  that he “appreciate(d) that the protracted uncertainty is causing anxiety and stress in some areas of the office”.

He also “anticipated that . . . redundancies and redeployments . . . will not be a prolonged process”.

Chief executive Geoff Crowe, who steps down next month after three years at the helm, said the restructure was being carried out to “accommodate the continued growth and diversification” of the port.

As a company, Port of Newcastle had its structure determined by the 2014 privatisation of the Newcastle Port Corporation.

Some responsibilities, including the harbour pilots who take commercial ships in and out of the harbour, were transferred to a new state government agency, the Port Authority of NSW.

SILVER SILOS: Newcastle AGRI Terminal at Carrington. Picture: Simon McCarthy

SILVER SILOS: Newcastle AGRI Terminal at Carrington. Picture: Simon McCarthy

Other “operational” work, including some wharf work and the dredge David Allan, went to the privatised business. Mr Crowe said it had 91 employees: about one-third were operational jobs, which were not affected by the changes.

In his June 4 email, Mr Gelder said the new structure had been determined after a “functional review” of the business that began late last year.

Although it was not mentioned in correspondence seen by the Herald, the port has begun a controversial push for a container terminal on the former BHP steelworks site, despite clear signs from the NSW government indicating it is not in favour of the proposal.

Mr Gelder said “a number of materially impacted roles will be redundant but at the same time a number of new roles are being created”.

All up, 18 positions, including two presently vacant, would be abolished, and 22 new ones created, making an increase of four jobs.

While “most staff” were expected to “transition to new roles”, a “small number . . . may be unable to be redeployed”.

Most of those affected belong to the Australian Maritime Officers Union. It sent a representative to Newcsatle but did not respond to requests for comment.

DIVERSIFICATION: Containers on a wharf in the Port of Newcastle earlier this year. Picture: Simon McCarthy

DIVERSIFICATION: Containers on a wharf in the Port of Newcastle earlier this year. Picture: Simon McCarthy