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Australian court curtails dockers’ strikes

Dubai terminal operator DP World was celebrating on 31 January as the Federal Court Of Australia (FCA) decided to grant an interim interlocutory injunction preventing the dockers’ union from further industrial action.

However, while the employer’s celebrated the wharfies and their union were outraged at what they see as an “attack on the fundamental democratic rights of all Australian workers.”

On a dramatic day, 31 January, the FCA took, what some regard as “unprecedented” decision to prevent further industrial action, finding in favour of the Dubai subsidiary DP World Australia.

DPWA COO Andrew Adam said, “The order meant it was business as usual at the terminals and customers could be assured there would be no disruption to normal services.”

But, the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) assistant national secretary Warren Smith argued, “This injunction doesn’t just prevent wharfies from taking legally protected industrial action, it is an alarming attack on democratic rights that will give companies open slather to strip all Australian workers of long held workplace conditions, which will effectively mean reduced standards of living for all.”

The terminal operator had sought an injunction against co-ordinated industrial action at its terminals organised by the MUA. In court the company argued that one of the union’s claims in enterprise bargaining was not permitted under the Fair Work Act 2009.

Smith, however, accused the DPWA of “distortions and straight-out verballing to muddy the waters in an effort to strip MUA members of their lawful right to take industrial action.”

In what sounded very much like a call for trade unionists across Australia and in other countries to support the DPWA dockers, Smith said, “By using the Federal Court to strip away the democratic rights of Australian wharfies, DP World have made this the fight of every unionist and every worker in this country and around the world whose rights have just been removed in the name of corporate profit.”

According to a DPWA statement, “The interim interlocutory injunction will remain in effect until the final determination of the case, or until alternate orders are made.”

The final hearing for the case is scheduled for 13 March.

Nick Savvides
Managing Editor

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