WATERFRONT workers are set to hold a rally in Melbourne on Friday morning as their dispute with stevedoring company DPWA drags on.

While stoppages have occurred around the country, the longest is taking place in Melbourne where workers walked off the job on Wednesday and are not expected to return to work until Sunday.

This is part of an ongoing dispute surrounding the terms of a new enterprise agreement at DPWA container terminals.

The MUA rally, billed as a “community barbecue”, is expected to be held outside West Swanson around 10am Friday.

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MUA Victorian deputy branch secretary David Ball said the barbecue was an opportunity for the broader community to support the struggle of Melbourne wharfies.

“Wharfies didn’t take this strike action lightly, but when DP World management is insisting on an agreement that will have significant and unacceptable detrimental impacts on workers, they were left with no choice but to fight back,” Mr Ball said.

Meanwhile a spokesperson for Victorian Ports Corporation said there had been no ‘bunching’ of vessels as a consequence of the stoppage.

“We’re monitoring the situation,” the spokesperson said.

The strike has also resulted in some benefits for other stevedores.

A spokesperson for Victoria International Container Terminal (a company that has itself come into conflict with the union) said they had offered to assist DPWA in servicing vessels.

“We have picked up the Hansa Freyburg, arriving Friday,” the spokesperson said.

Freight and Trade Alliance director and Australian Peak Shippers Association secretariat Travis Brooks-Garrett said industry could not afford to revisit the protracted wharf disputes of the 1980s and 1990s.

“While the MUA has branded the strikes as ‘small delays’, a four-day full terminal closure in Melbourne has a significant effect on shippers and transport operators that can’t be understated,” he said.

“Our greatest fear is that the strikes spread to other terminals or continue beyond the four days.”

Mr Brooks-Garrett praised DPWA efforts to minimise disruptions with sub-contracting arrangements and other measures.

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