Friday, September 25, 2020

After a Two Year Negotiation Peace May Break Out in Australian Container Terminals

Signs That a Mutually Agreeable Workplace Agreement is Imminent
Shipping News Feature

AUSTRALIA – By the tone of news coming from the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) it seems that the two years of negotiations to establish a new workplace agreement with the nation's largest container terminal operator, DP World Australia, may finally be coming to fruition.

In an update today, in more measured language than one often associates with MUA releases, it advises that it appears that the ink may soon be dry on a new agreement after the company, which operates container terminals in Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne and Fremantle, notified workers that it anticipates finalising workplace agreements with the union by 30 September.

Certainly the mood has altered from January this year when wharfies in Fremantle walked out on strike with the union accusing DP World of procrastination and issuing threats to jobs. Just last week the union agreed to suspend all forms of planned industrial action at the terminals as a show of good faith in an effort to assist with the finalisation of agreements for the four facilities.

The progress to resolve the long-running dispute follows productive negotiations between the MUA and DPWA this week with MUA National Secretary Paddy Crumlin saying the breakthrough demonstrated that the proper application of bargaining was capable of resolving long-running, complex disputes. He commented:

“By meeting together this week to bargain in good faith, DP World Australia and the MUA have been able to achieve a significant breakthrough, reaching an in-principle agreement that both sides hope to finalise by the end of this month. After two years of difficult negotiation, this is a significant breakthrough that will provide industrial certainty at Australia’s largest container terminals.

“We are currently working with the company to turn this in-principle agreement into a final document that will lock in fair and productive outcomes for workers and the company over the next four years. Efforts over the last week have shown that when both sides sit down in a mature fashion to bargain in good faith, it delivers results.

“This breakthrough outlines a path for other stevedoring companies to resolve outstanding issues, rather than beat up public anxiety in an effort to drive political agendas or attempt to gain unfair and cynical leverage in negotiations. Our members have worked throughout the Covid crisis to keep the economy ticking over, and their efforts to implement separation, segregation and sanitisation protocols ensured critically important maritime supply chains remained operational.

“We remain committed to delivering increased and demonstrated best practice productivity on the waterfront, but only as part of a social contract with the workforce that delivers improved conditions and a shorter working week.”

Photo: DP World, Fremantle (courtesy DP World)