A PLANNED eight-day strike at the Port of Fremantle will be called off if assurances about job security are made, the union says.But Transport Minister Troy Buswell said the Maritime Union of Australia was "unapologetically blackmailing WA retailers and consumers again in the lead-up to Christmas", and dismissed its concerns.
Fair Work Australia last week intervened in a largely pay-related dispute between the union and Fremantle Ports, facilitating a compromise between the parties and preventing threatened industrial action.
But the strike threat has returned, union spokesman Will Tracey said, after Fremantle Ports flagged the possibility of privatisation.
Mr Tracey said port workers were concerned such a move would lead to mass sackings and questioned whether it was allowed under the Port Authorities Act.
"We're just seeking some assurances that that won't be the case," he told AAP.
"The port says it can't do that."
Mr Tracey said the strike action would be called off if Fremantle Ports provided assurances of job security or if the matter was taken to Fair Work Australia.
But Transport Minister Troy Buswell said privatisation "quite simply isn't going to happen."
"Our ports will remain state-owned ports," he told Fairfax Radio.
"It is a fact there are some private operators that currently operate in Fremantle Port, some of the stevedoring businesses, and that happens in ports right around the state, but they are still public ports and there is no intention to privatise the Fremantle Port."
In a statement, Mr Buswell said Fremantle Ports had largely compromised on most of the union's demands, including a 20 per cent pay increase over the next four years.
But the union's insistence on a clause in the employment agreement - guaranteeing permanency of employment for the life of that agreement - was "not something that we will be conceding under any circumstance", he said.
Fremantle Ports chief executive Chris Leatt-Hayter said the port operator was "extremely concerned" about the impact of an eight day strike on importers, exporters and the consumers in the lead-up to Christmas.
Union officials and Fremantle Port Authority will resume talks today.
If the stand-off continues, the union says it will go ahead with the strike, involving more than 130 workers, from 5.30am (WST) on Monday.