THE MARITIME Union of Australia is continuing protected industrial action at DP World’s Australia terminals after several days of negotiations last week.

The two parties last week went through six days – 4 through 9 December – of assisted negotiations before Fair Work Commission Deputy President Melanie Binet.

After negotiations ended, the union announced further industrial action to 23 December.

Also, on 9 December, DP World asked the Fair Work Commission to issue an order suspending industrial action for 90 days. On Tuesday 12 December, the FWC advised it would not grant these orders. The commission did not immediately publish the reasons behind its decision.

“Given the ongoing impact of industrial action on the supply chain and the close proximity to Christmas, DP World considered it was appropriate to ask the Fair Work Commission to suspend action for a limited period and enable the parties to return to bargaining without the distraction of ongoing stoppages and rolling work bans,” A DP World spokesperson said.

The DP World spokesperson said “only limited progress” had been made toward an agreement.

“The MUA has made a number of claims, including wage increases of 8% per annum, which DP World considers are not reasonable and cannot sustainably agreed to,” the spokesperson said.

The DP World spokesperson said the company is aware the ongoing industrial action at its Australian terminals is impacting customers.

The union view

MUA assistant national secretary Adrian Evans said DP World’s management team “dragged their feet” and did not settle an in-principle agreement over the negotiation period.

“The MUA discontinued our application for facilitated bargaining at the completion of those meetings, which is the normal course of events within the commission,” he said.

“The MUA have been bargaining with Dubai Ports since March 2023 with very little movement. The union had suspended our protected industrial action while there was progress in negotiations and we had hoped to reach an in-principle agreement last week, but at the end of the sixth day there were still key issues outstanding and the company indicated they were unavailable to meet until January 29 at the earliest, some seven weeks away.”

Mr Evans said the MUA remains available to meet to bring negotiations to a close.

“As a consequence of DP World’s dogged undermining of the bargaining process, which will now enter its ninth month, workers are left with no option but to recommence lawful, legitimate and reasonable protected industrial action in order to get an agreement in a timely manner,” he said.

Expected delays

The company expects significant delays and container backlogs at its terminals in the coming fortnight, with a total backlog of containers totalling 44,719.

DP World expects delays at its Sydney terminal to be on average nine days, a maximum of 19 days, with a backlog of 14,049 containers.

In Melbourne, the company expects an average delay of 10 days, maximum 17 days, with a backlog of 12,188 containers.

In Brisbane the expected delay is average eight days, maximum 14 days with a backlog of 12,697 containers.

And at Fremantle, expected delays are 10 days average, a maximum of 18 days and a backlog of 5785 containers.

This article has been updated to clarify some points around DP World’s request to the FWC for a 90-day suspension of industrial action.