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Home Port News DP World anger at MUA as dispute intensifies

DP World anger at MUA as dispute intensifies

DP World’s COO Andrew Adam hit back at the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) accusing the union of “grandstanding” in preference to collective bargaining and of posting misleading press statements.

A long running dispute over new enterprise agreements with wharfies across Australia has turned into a bitter dispute with the MUA accusing the country’s largest terminal operator of bullying and illegal attacks on workers’ rights.

“Workers were outraged by the unlawful attacks, saying the aggressive escalation was aimed at bullying workers into accepting management’s demands in a new workplace agreement,” according to the MUA’s assistant national secretary Warren Smith.

The Dubai-based company countered today, claiming that the union had misrepresented its position.

“Yesterday, the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) released a media statement in regard to annual leave arrangements at DP World Australia. This statement deliberately misrepresents these arrangements,” said Adam.

According to the company “only eight employees in key roles in terminals in Sydney and Fremantle have been required to return to work from annual leave.”

Adam said the company understands the pressure on staff during the summer holiday period with many workers having to look after children enjoying a summer break.

However, DP World said in order to deliver a safe and efficient service to its customers it needed to recall a select few staff in key roles.

“It is entirely false to imply the cancellation of annual leave has affected our entire workforce, a significant proportion of our workforce, or employees at terminals other than Sydney and Fremantle,” said Adam.

He went on to say, “DP World Australia believes the MUA’s misleading media statement is part of a deliberate campaign to distract attention from the union’s mismanagement of enterprise bargaining at our terminals around Australia.

“Last October, the MUA and DP World reached an in-principle agreement on new enterprise agreements, only for the union to back out, lodge fresh claims and reinitiate industrial action.”

Showing some concern for its employees, the company estimated that industrial action to date had cost each worker around A$6,000, “because the union appears to prefer grandstanding to productive bargaining,” said the company.

Union officials have again claimed it is the company that is making false claims. Green Left, an Australian publication, commented that the leave ban was in response to 13 January work stoppage and other industrial action.

“Furthermore, in Sydney, it is refusing to back-pay those workers who stopped work during the most intense periods of smoke haze, along with wharfies from the two other companies — Patrick Corporations and Hutchison Ports,” reported Green Left.

Australian terminal workers’ strikes have a history of becoming bitter and drawn out. In the early noughties, Patrick took on wharfies in a dispute that saw dockers in a number of countries refuse to handle Australia bound cargo. The dispute spread to the UK High Court with the Patrick Corporation launching a bid in the courts to declare the action of the International Transport Workers Federation (ITF), a federation of transport unions from across the globe, unlawful. The case was dismissed as the companies lawyers foundered in the courts.

Nick Savvides
Managing Director, Container news

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