Over 1,000 containers are kept motionless at Port of Melbourne’s container terminal at Web Dock after members of the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) walked off the job amid an industrial dispute.
Workers have been picketing at the Webb Dock for two weeks due to an ongoing dispute involving a casual worker who was denied a security clearance because of a criminal record.
Anders Dommestrup, Chief Executive of Victoria International Container Terminal (VICT), said the union officials organising the picket at Webb Dock were demanding that VICT offer work to an MUA member with a criminal record that “makes it illegal for him to work in the secure areas at Webb Dock under Federal law.”
According to Dommestrup, the individual in question started working as a casual employee in November 2016 and applied for a Maritime Security Identification Card (MSIC) in February this year.
“He was notified in March that he had failed to gain an MSIC and informed VICT of this in November, after which VICT informed him he would no longer be offered shifts due to these circumstances,” he added.
Dommestrup stressed that the picket is having a huge impact on many small and medium-sized businesses, putting perishable goods at risk, damaging Victoria’s reputation and giving Sydney’s Port Botany a competitive leg-up.
“It’s time the officials abandon the picket, allow VICT staff back on site, stop preventing trucks entering and leaving the site and permit Victoria’s importers and exporters to start doing business again.
“The MUA is party to VICT’s enterprise agreement and this means that they approved it,” he continued.
The protest has resulted in ships being diverted to Adelaide and other Victorian ports, endangering over AUSD 100 million worth of business, local media reported.
The Port of Melbourne risks becoming an international laughing stock if industrial action that has shut
down VICT for the past 10 days is permitted to continue, the Victorian Transport Association (VTA) warned.
“It is an affront to every Port of Melbourne stevedore and freight operator working in and around the port that the Victorian economy is continuing to be held to ransom by the MUA over what we now understand is a legal reason for this individual being ineligible for employment at the docks,” said VTA CEO Peter Anderson.
“VICT is already losing business to other Port of Melbourne stevedores through this action, but if foreign exporters determine Melbourne is an unreliable destination for freight forwarders they will send their business to ports in other states, at a massive cost to our economy,” Anderson said.
Anderson called on all stakeholders involved in the action to “put the interests of the Victorian economy first and work constructively to bring an end to industrial action.”
The Supreme Court has ordered the Maritime Union of Australia to stop the picket.
Separately, MUA has announced industrial action of its members working on pilot cutters operated by the Port Authority from Port Jackson and Port Botany on December 13.
The industrial action is being pursued as the Port Authority of New South Wales and the Australian Maritime Officers Union (AMOU) and MUA failed to reach a deal on a replacement Enterprise Agreement for its Sydney workforce. Talks on the new deal are ongoing since February 2017.
World Maritime News Staff