THE Australian Logistics Council has condemned the Maritime Union’s strike at Melbourne’s Webb Dock, saying businesses should not pay for a “union anniversary party”.
The Maritime Union announced a four-day strike at Melbourne’s Webb Dock starting on Thursday (5 April). The Union says the strike stems from Qube’s application to the FWC to terminate an enterprise agreement after protracted negotiations.
Qube provides labour to stevedore vessels at Webb Dock, where the Union staged a strike over the same issue two weeks ago.
This week’s strike coincides with the 20th anniversary of the 1998 waterfront dispute between the MUA and Patrick.
ALC Managing Director Michael Kilgariff said if the MUA wishes to commemorate significant moments from its past, it should put together an appropriate anniversary event instead of “disrupting legitimate business activities on spurious grounds”.
“The MUA’s decision to stage a four-day strike in Melbourne is clearly more about boosting its public profile than it is about legitimate workplace matters,” he said.
“Qube Ports has clearly acted reasonably over more than two-and-a-half years to negotiate with the MUA, and is in a position to offer pay rises of almost 10 per cent over four years.”
Mr Kilgariff said the Union’s “posturing” ultimately does not assist its members, let alone freight logistics operators and consumers.
“While the unions might be eager to ‘change the rules’, they cannot change the basic laws of economics. When this type of pointless industrial grandstanding occurs at Australian ports, it is Australian consumers who end up suffering the consequences,” he said.
“The resulting delays in freight movement simply engender higher shipping costs, which in turn means higher consumer prices being paid by all – including those working people unions claim to represent.”
Mr Kilgariff continued, saying the ALC was concerned that industrial action would likely increase with the merger of the MUA and the CFMEU.
“A massive, militant union exercising an industrial monopoly over the nation’s supply chains poses an enormous risk to ongoing economic and employment growth – especially for an economy that relies heavily on exports and imports of manufactured products,” he said.
“ALC encourages the Federal Government to act on its election commitment to subject union mergers to a public interest test, similar in nature to competition law principles that apply to businesses.”
NOTE: This article has been updated to reflect a correction: Qube stevedores vessels at Webb Dock, but does not supply labour to MIRRAT, which operates the open-access ro-ro terminal at Webb Dock.