The Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) notified terminal operator DP World it would continue a series of protected industrial actions at its four facilities through to the end of the third week of November.
DP World operates terminals at Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Fremantle, and Maersk has told customers the Sydney terminal was subject to a 24-hour stoppage today and next Friday, with Brisbane also shut down next Friday.
At the heart of the dispute is a proposal from DP World Australia’s management for a flexible roster system, which it claimed would be “better suited to the needs of its customers”.
The MUA contends that the new roster would mean a dramatic increase in the number of weekend hours its members would work and effectively represent a 32% pay cut.
And to counter the cost of living crisis, the union has also called for a 7.4% pay increase, something rival terminal operator Patrick awarded its dockers earlier this year.
Lobby group Shipping Australia said the rolling industrial action that had already taken place brought lengthening delays at the country’s ports and begun to hit its economy.
It estimated that the direct and indirect cost to the economy from a one-day strike at the four DP World terminals at about A$22m (US$14m), and added: “It now takes seven to eight days to unload cargo, when it normally takes two.
“This causes harm to our members – who are not parties to the dispute – as it can cost tens of thousands of dollars a day for a ship just to sit there. Strikes harm the trucking companies, as truckies cannot get their trucks loaded in good time. Strikes harm warehousing companies, distribution centres and everyone up and down the supply chain.”
However, this week the MUA received backing from the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU), which called on DP World to “return to good faith bargaining and abandon their attacks on hard-working maritime workers” in the four ports, to “deliver a fair wage outcome from their workers that keeps pace with inflation and with industry benchmarks”; and to “commit to roster and working arrangements that support a sustainable work-life balance”.
However, DP World has demanded that the industrial action end before it returns to the negotiating table.