THE Maritime Union is set to hold a ballot of its members at Victoria International Container Terminal for the right to take protected industrial action.

This follows a successful application to the Fair Work Commission.

MUA deputy national secretary Will Tracey said the ballot was “the first step towards undertaking legally protected industrial action in pursuit of a workplace agreement that aligns with industry standards”.

Workers will be asked to vote on various forms of action, including work stoppages, overtime bans, bans on tasks, and bans on working specific container vessels.

“The VICT workforce remains resolute in their pursuit of an enterprise agreement that recognises their valuable work and the benefits the company derives from them,” Mr Tracey said.

“Wharfies are demanding industry rates and conditions that bring them into line with other stevedoring companies and properly recognise the work they do,” he said.

“The current pay rates and conditions fail to adequately recognise the 24/7 nature of this work.”

Mr Tracey said the company was “attempting to make workers pay the price for management’s past mistakes on leasing arrangements and future expansion projects, which is simply unacceptable”.

In a statement, VICT expressed surprise and argued the deal on offer was a good one.

“VICT is surprised by the ballot as discussions are progressing. VICT has made a good offer – well above inflation – against a backdrop of serious economic circumstances for Victoria,” the spokesperson said.

“We will continue to work closely with our employees and unions to bring about what we anticipate will be a mutually beneficial agreement.”   

The industrial situation may yet involve other unions.

A spokesman for the Australian Maritime Officers Union told DCN that its members had instructed the preparation of a ballot “in much the same terms as the MUA ballot”.

Container Transport Alliance Australia director Neil Chambers said he hoped “VICT can continue to negotiate with the MUA and the Australian Maritime Officers Union in good faith towards a timely finalisation of their new enterprise agreement”.

“There couldn’t be a worse time for any protected industrial action to be taken at VICT or any other stevedore terminal while we are in the middle of one of the biggest container volume surges in living memory,” Mr Chambers said.