Sunday 21st Oct, 2018

Government inaction fears as VICT picket drags

Photo: David Sexton
Photo: David Sexton

A PICKET at Webb Dock shows little sign of dissipating with industry groups concerned at the lack of progress towards resolution.

This is despite Victoria International Container Terminal having won Supreme Court injunctions against picketers.

A spokesman for the Victorian government said they expected all parties to abide by the Court ruling.

“The government has also repeatedly offered to bring the parties together to help them resolve this dispute – including an offer to bring in Industrial Relations Victoria as a mediator,” the spokesman said.

“We have urged all parties to negotiate an end to this matter in good faith.”

The spokesperson said the referral of industrial relations to the Commonwealth in 1996 meant the Victorian Government had no industrial powers to end the dispute.

But others have urged the Victorian government to do more, with Freight and Trade Alliance director, Travis Brooks-Garrett, saying the economic consequences of illegal industrial action had to be recognised.

“The $100m damages bill quoted by VICT is not overstated. While everyone has the right to protest, no one has the right to ignore a Supreme Court order,” Mr Brooks-Garrett said.

“We are a country of laws. Regardless of party politics, now is the time that a line must be drawn in the sand. Otherwise we are setting a dangerous precedent for all future maritime industrial disputes.

“The treatment of VICT, where they seem to be outside the protection of the law, will be cause for concern for future foreign investors.”

Legal sources who spoke with DCN noted the impact of scrapping anti-picketing laws that were introduced by a previous government.

“The anti-picketing laws … were a start in changing the culture of Victorian IR, but they were quietly and swiftly removed by Andrews at the first opportunity,” one lawyer said.

“Since the CUB dispute, a freer hand has been given to the unions in terms of the removal of those laws preventing obstruction – which has meant that the government has basically sent a message to all the players that it accepts police reticence / non-intervention as being just fine.”

In a statement to DCN, Victoria Police said it was aware of recent injunctions and had held discussions with all parties to ensure there was no breach of the peace.

“Police will monitor the protest in order to maintain public safety as the protection of the Victorian community is our highest priority,” a spokesman said.

“Victoria Police respects people’s right to protest peacefully, but will not tolerate those who break the law.”

The International Transport Workers Federation this week released a combative statement criticising VICT parent company ICTSI, with ITF president Paddy Crumlin, saying the company had imported its anti-worker business model to Australia.





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