A MAJOR escalation of industrial action is about sending stevedore DPWA a clear message, Maritime Union assistant national secretary Warren Smith says.

Wharfies are this week striking for 48 hours at DPWA Brisbane, Sydney and Fremantle container terminals, and for 96 hours in Melbourne.

According to the union, their fight is against automation, outsourcing and cuts to income protection insurance.

But DPWA, says it is “disappointed” by the union’s actions, which are occurring at a time when shipping lines are said to be reviewing stevedore contracts.

Mr Smith said DPWA management wanted provisions in a new agreement that could see waterfront jobs lost to outsourcing and automation.

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“Our members have shown incredible patience in an attempt to reach resolution with DP World, including by agreeing to hold off on any form of industrial action for three months, but despite that goodwill management are refusing to budge on these key issues,” he said.

“This major escalation of industrial action is about sending a clear message to management that the safety, dignity, and job security of wharfies are absolutely non-negotiable.”

Mr Smith said members had delivered “huge increases” in productivity to DPWA in recent years but the company had unnecessarily escalated the conflict earlier this year.

“We will not roll over and accept an unfair agreement,” he said.

Workers have also imposed indefinite work bans, including bans on upgrades, overtime, and shift extensions.

DPWA chief operating officer Andrew Adam said the industrial action would cause “significant disruption to DPWA customers and importantly the broader supply chain of shippers, exporters and importers”.

“DPWA employees will also be unnecessarily and avoidably impacted by these lost earnings,” Mr Adam said.

According to DPWA, during the recent 12-week bargaining period, the union made no material concessions to their initial 50 claims including a wage increase “well above CPI”.

“The company has put forward its position and the union must now make appropriate concessions to their extensive list of claims,” Mr Adam said.

DPWA has noted unprecedented consolidation of, and changes to global shipping lines calling in Australia, combined with surplus stevedoring capacity contributing to a “challenging financial outlook”.

DPWA continues to maintain that it will make an enterprise agreement on terms that secure the business’ long-term, ongoing sustainability.

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