Work Has All But Stopped at DP World

The day began today with stevedore workers at DP World’s (DPW’s) Melbourne and Sydney container terminals refusing to work the morning shifts. This is the reaction of the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) to DPW’s stated position that they would no longer tolerate partial work bans from today.

Now, work has all but stopped at DPW terminals, which handle about 40% of the country’s freight.

DPW have today released a statement highlighting the severe escalation of industrial action culminating in full work bans at DP World’s Sydney, Brisbane and Fremantle terminals, while limited work is being performed at DP World’s Melbourne terminal.

To read a PDF of the full statement, click on this link.

Included is this statement: “We are once again calling on the Australian Federal Government to intervene in our dispute with the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) following a severe escalation of industrial action that has seen DP World employees encouraged by the MUA to not work across the nation’s terminals.”

Industry spokespersons such as the FTA have likewise been urging intervention from the Federal Government. A statement from the IFCBAA today says, “The lack of action to date by the Federal Government is totally unacceptable and is laid bare today.”

Workplace Relations Minister Tony Burke has the power to intervene in industrial disputes that threaten the Australian economy, including by terminating industrial action. That could lead to the conflict being arbitrated by an independent umpire. Mr Burke, who is on leave, has refused to intervene and his spokesman declined to comment.

According to an article released online by the Financial Review (AFR) late this morning, DPW has vowed that it would begin docking daily pay from staff who engage in industrial action.

The AFR article reports that DP World’s regional executive vice president, Nicolaj Noes, implored the federal government to intervene in the dispute. Mr Noes said the union’s campaign of periodic disruptions had made it “almost impossible” to operate, which the union denies.

“Come Monday, delays on key items such as meat, clothing and appliances will be compounded. For business owners who are already having a tough time, it’s a monumental blow,” he said.

The MUA, which is a division of the CFMEU, released a statement from its assistant national secretary, Adrian Evans, pinning blame on Mr Noes.

“All delays and disruptions are the sole responsibility of Nicolaj Noes, who failed to attend any of the negotiations held this week,” Mr Evans said. The union’s most senior leadership also did not attend the talks that ran for three days from Tuesday in Sydney.”

Mr Evans said that DP World Australia, which is part of the broader Dubai based stevedoring giant, had continued “to push for cuts to wages and conditions” and accused it of wasting the meetings this week.

Legal experts were split before the most recent escalation on whether the union’s actions would trigger the legal threshold for the government or Fair Work Commission, which is the national industrial umpire, to intervene.

Stuart Wood, KC, an industrial relations specialist who often acts for employers in high-profile cases, said that the threshold for intervention in industrial action at ports would be met “nine times out of ten.”

Mr Wood said that the critical role of stevedores in Australia’s economy, rather than the extent of the industrial action, would determine whether the threshold for intervention would be met.

The costs: According to the statement from DPW, their economic modelling shows the Industrial Action taken to date has cost the nation $34 million in lost productivity per day, building on an average impact of $84 million per week since the MUA’s protected industrial action commenced in September 2023. The backlog of containers across Australian ports now exceeds 48,000 and will take months to recover from.

Also see our previous article: Container Terminal Challenges as 2024 Starts.

As licensed Customs Brokers and International Freight Forwarders, Colless Young professionally handles all your international transport needs. We provide import and export shipping, as well as airfreight, including customs and quarantine clearance, fumigation treatment, warehousing and trucking. We are based in Brisbane and offer a complete range of logistics services through all Australian ports and airports.