SHIPPING Australia has called on minister for employment and workplace relations Tony Burke to issue a ministerial declaration to stop the Maritime Union of Australia’s protected industrial action at DP World terminals.
The minister has the power to issue such a declaration under Section 431 of the Fair Work Act 2009 if the protected industrial action “is threatening, or would threaten … to cause significant damage to the Australian economy or an important part of it”.
In its letter, Shipping Australia noted that after the weekend’s cyberattack, there is a backlog of cargo at DP World terminals, and there will be continuing issues as the terminal operator recovers.
“There will be some continuing disruption for the foreseeable future,” Shipping Australia wrote.
“Furthermore, there has also been extensive industrial action at DP World. This also causes numerous issues in relation to disruption of cargo imports and exports.”
“[Economic consultancy] Houston Kemp estimates that one day of simultaneous industrial action will disrupt cargo at DP World to a value of approximately $201.6 million per day and that, in turn, causes an estimated direct economic loss to the wider economy of $10.1 million a day,” Shipping Australia wrote.
And then, due to “multiplier effects”, the industry body estimates this $10.1 million a day would cause “economic harm to Australia of more than $23 million a day”.
“Shipping Australia considers that the combined harm caused by the cyberattacks and the ongoing industrial action is so significantly damaging to the Australian economy (or a part thereof), that it warrants … intervention under Section 431 of the Fair Work Act,” the industry body wrote.
However, the MUA said Shipping Australia should look to address seafarer welfare issues in international shipping instead of “inserting itself” into the bargaining process.
MUA national secretary and ITF president Paddy Crumlin said: “Shipping Australia, which in fact represents international ship owners rather than Australian ones, would be better directed chasing down the failures, criminality and corruption within global shipping cartels that operate in Australian waters than inserting itself into the bargaining process with stevedoring employers that the MUA is engaging in with good faith.”
Mr Crumlin said this year alone ITF’s Australian inspectorate has performed 600 inspections in Australian ports and found more than US$14 million in stolen wages.
“It’s time for the International Shipping in Australia lobby group to look through its industry’s dirty laundry and address the rampant wage theft and enslavement of seafarers that’s going on aboard the thousands of foreign-flagged ships operating in Australian waters.”
A DP World spokesperson said the company “remains optimistic that the Maritime Union of Australia will cease its industrial activates and co-operate with us”.
“We hold the view that in periods of intense challenges, it’s vital for every involved party to collaborate to uphold the productivity and reliability of our supply chain processes.”
Mr Burke’s office has been contacted for comment.