MARITIME Union assistant national secretary Warren Smith has warned of industrial action after stevedore DP World Australia postponed talks over a new enterprise agreement.

But DPWA chief operating officer terminals Max Kruse said the company’s hand was forced by a decision of the CFMMEU (of which the MUA is now part) to lodge a dispute about irregular shifts with the Fair Work Commission.

The MUA and DPWA had been in the process of negotiating a new national deal for the company’s 1800 waterfront workers, with the current agreement expiring in February.

Mr Smith said the company had walked before when safety issues were raised – a point contested by DPWA which accused a union representative of unprofessional behaviour.

“DPWA have again walked away from three days of negotiations set down for December with the union and have cancelled or refused to meet in all local areas for localised discussions,” Mr Smith said.

“The union calls on DPWA to announce when they are able to meet and work through the issues to get an agreement.”

In a press release, the union said pushing negotiations back towards expiry may “force the union into taking legally protected industrial action to focus the company’s attention”.

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In a statement to staff, Mr Kruse said he was “extremely disappointed” that the Victorian branch of the CFMMEU had chosen to lodge a dispute about irregular shifts with the Fair Work Commission.

“The dispute is scheduled to be heard on 13 December, and DPWA has no option but to suspend the next round of negotiations in the interim,” he said.

“DPWA set out very clearly at the first EA meeting that if there is a matter lodged in the FWC that we believe is an EA issue that could be dealt with in the EA negotiations, then we will not meet until either the issue is dealt with in the Commission or withdrawn.

“As a result, the negotiations which were due resume next week in Melbourne will be postponed.”

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