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DP World reaches peace deal with union

Tuesday, 02 April 2019 | 12:00

DP World has struck a partial peace deal with the maritime union to suspend industrial action at its terminals, but is still facing crippling 24-hour strikes at Port Botany.

The Maritime Union of Australia significantly escalated industrial action at the struggling stevedore on Friday afternoon in protest over the company’s wage offer and its bid to scrap the union’s income protection scheme, Protect.

However, following urgent talks over the weekend and into Monday, the union agreed to a three-month suspension of overtime bans and stoppages for all terminals except Port Botany in return for the company maintaining Protect during that period.

Wharfies had notified a 24-hour stoppage at Sydney’s Port Botany for this Thursday followed by a 24-hour strike in Brisbane on Friday, with Sydney strikes to recur on April 10 and May 1.

The industrial action will stop the stevedore loading and offloading ships and also halt DP World’s rail services, which threatens to further raise costs for rural exporters.

Freight and Trade Alliance director Travis Brooks-Garrett said the announcement of the 24-hour stoppages on Friday had “created alarm for high-volume importers and exporters” and “represented a major escalation of the dispute”.

“DP World Australia Port Botany rail operations were shut over the weekend as a result of the dispute, creating additional fees and delays for major rural exporters who are dependent on rail operations,” he said.

“Again, we would call for an urgent resolution and for the parties to get back to the table for the good of the international trade sector.”

Australian Logistics Council chief executive Kirk Coningham said the industrial action was “already imposing significant costs on rail freight logistics operators that will have to be passed on to customers and consumers”.

“As Port Botany moves the greatest amount of containerised freight by rail nationally, it is not possible to replace all cancelled rail services with road services – and accordingly, we are witnessing major delays to the movement of freight.”

Sources said the stevedore was still hopeful of a suspension of the Port Botany strikes.

A DP World spokesman said the peace deal was “going forward at a national level and the CFMEU bans have been lifted across all our sites”.

“We expect that Port Botany terminal will be compliant with the national agreement shortly.

“We need to focus on reaching an enterprise agreement, which is sustainable to position the business to face increasing levels of competition and increased flexibility to support our customers.”

In a message to customers on Friday, DP World said since the union’s protected action started two weeks ago “we have struggled to secure sufficient labour and skills required to meet the needs of our customers”.

“The team at DP World continue to work tirelessly to manage what is an extremely fluid environment and provide plans for vessels calling at our terminals.”

Last week, the stevedore successfully applied for interim orders from the Fair Work Commission to prevent what it claimed were wharfies’ illegal “go-slows” at Port Botany, which were occurring in addition to protected industrial action. A substantive hearing will take place on Wednesday.

The MUA’s industrial action has hit the stevedore at a time when it has been struggling financially due to reduced volumes and loss of shipping contracts at its Melbourne terminal.

At the start of industrial action on March 19, the company asked its Melbourne wharfies to raise their hands for voluntary redundancies.

The MUA did not return requests for comment before publication.
Source: Australian Financial Review

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