THE Maritime Union of Australia plans to carry out eight 12-hour stoppages at the Victoria International Container Terminal starting on Friday 11 June, with each stoppage commencing at 1800 every day, the union confirmed to DCN

The protected industrial action notices come after a breakdown in enterprise agreement negotiations between the union and the terminal. 

The union said VICT reneged on an in-principal agreement.

MUA assistant national secretary Adrian Evans said the only reason legally-protected industrial action will take place at the VICT terminal is the company’s decision to renege on an agreement they reached with the union. 

“VICT management shook hands with the bargaining committee on an in-principle deal last month; they then put the agreement in writing, sent it again in the form of a proposal, and included it in formal drafting documents on three subsequent occasions,” Mr Evans said. 

“The agreement involved all sides making concessions to reach a deal that was fair and reasonable.” 

Mr Evans said there was no question that an agreement had been reached with VICT management to the “highest levels”. He said the agreed document was put to the workforce in writing. 

“For VICT to unilaterally pull out of a deal they had committed to on no fewer than six occasions makes a mockery of the concept of good-faith bargaining,” he said. 

“We have never experienced anything like this, with a company making a commitment to an agreement one week, then walking away from it the next. Our members are appalled that after long and difficult negotiations finally reached a fair conclusion the company would just walk away from it.” 

Mr Evans said if the company doesn’t want to see industrial action take place at the terminal, all they need to do is honour the deal they repeatedly put in writing. 

“The actions of VICT management, reneging on something they had agreed to only a week earlier, also highlight why we need a dispute resolution clause that is locked in for the life of the agreement, rather than something they can just reject down the track,” he said. 

VICT declined to comment for this article. 

Container Transport Alliance Australia director Neil Chambers said it is inevitable that there will be landside impacts stemming from the protected industrial actions. 

“Regrettably, these PIAs will impact larger volume container transport operators operating landside night shift operations into VICT for import pick-ups and export deliveries,” he said. 

“Significant investment is unavoidable when you’re effectively closing off night shifts for that period of time.”  

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A spokesperson for Shipping Australia pointed out that the Port of Melbourne is the most important container-handling port in Victoria, handling about 3 million TEU per year. 

“Ocean shipping will also be gravely affected. Currently, one day of delay for a container ship on the Australian coast can cost up to $92,000. So, any delays at Melbourne will be extraordinarily costly,” he said. 

The spokesperson said congestion is contagious, and there will likely be congestion at other ports because of this industrial action.  

“Shipping companies will also be hit with increased fuel bills as they try to catch up on their schedules,” he said. 

“Any disruption to trade at our ports causes harm to Australian businesses, consumers and our broader economy. The resurgence of waterfront industrial action during a global pandemic and a national economic crisis is reckless, grossly irresponsible and utterly inappropriate.” 

The Shipping Australia spokesperson said the smooth continuation of operations at the waterfront is vital to Australia’s economic interests, yet there is still industrial relations-related disruption on the waterfront. 

“Industrial relations need to be looked at as a matter of urgency by the federal government or disruptions will continue to persist to the detriment of all Australians, no matter who they are or where they live,” he said. 

“Shipping Australia calls upon the federal government to include a review of waterfront industrial so as to ensure that his repeated industrial action is not able to disrupt the supply chain.”

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