Container haulage hit at Melbourne terminal

By: Rob McKay

VICT seeks court relief from MUA picket as port transport feels pinch

Container haulage hit at Melbourne terminal
Anders Dommestrup sees damages topping $100 million


Victoria International Container Terminal (VICT) will see the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) in court over an alleged illegal picket of its Melbourne facility that has disrupted supply chains and cruelled related container haulage services.

It is understood the Supreme Court will be the venue and that VICT managers and operational staff are unable to access their offices at the automated terminal.

This follows the issue being brought before the Fair Work Commission (FWC) on Monday.

The action comes hard the heels of an unrelated warning of industrial strife around ports traditionally occurring in December and while the MUA has voted to form a superunion with the militant Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU).

"This protest has arisen due to the MUA demanding we employ a worker who is ineligible for a Maritime Security Identification Card (MSIC) and was not honest about their situation," VICT told stakeholders late yesterday.

"We pride ourselves on the safety at our terminal and are not willing to break the law by caving into the MUA’s demands.

"In addition, this issue goes further as the MUA’s intention is to damage VICT as we challenge the traditions stevedoring with our progressive, modern approach.

"The new jobs within VICT have created new opportunities for employees to gain new skills."

MUA stance

MUA deputy national secretary Will Tracey says 22 workers on site have been identified as not having an MSIC  to work in the restricted landside zone and are currently awaiting processing and that "21 workers have been treated fairly by VICT but one has been punished, most likely because he has taken court action against a manager on site who has been bullying and victimising workers."

The MUA accuses VICT of denying the casual employee shifts "after taking action against management over workplace bullying and harassment".

"The company’s assertion in the AFR [Australian Financial Review] today that this worker ‘had lost an appeal against the regulator's refusal’ to grant an MSIC is categorically false," Tracey says.

The AFR report quotes VICT CEO Anders Dømmestrup as saying court-imposed damages could run to $100 million.

CTAA rejection

Container Transport Alliance Australia (CTAA) says the picket has forced VICT to turn away hundreds of trucks that pick up and deliver containers to their Webb Dock terminal.

"This picket is costing container transport companies, their import and export customers, and Victorian consumers tens of thousands of dollars a day" said CTAA director Neil Chambers says.

"The pretence for this dispute centres on the inability of a single individual to obtain a valid MSIC to work in the restricted landside zone inside the container terminal.

"Every day, the Commonwealth government issues or rejects applications for MSICs. MSIC is an issue of national security and critical to the protection of our ports, and particularly the people who work in them."

"Why on earth would the MUA hold the Victorian community to ransom over a person who’s ineligible to hold a MSIC?

"Also, there are appeal processes available under security law which we assume the individual has pursued? Surely the community and the union should feel safer that the system is working.

"Stopping hard working container truck drivers, all of whom are required to hold valid MSICs, from going about their daily work is irresponsible. These drivers, the transport companies and the Victorian community are entitled to a fair go.

"It is not out of the question that container transport companies and their shipper customers may seek financial compensation through the courts if this uncalled for picket continues."

With only four weeks until Christmas, retail customers are awaiting import containers to meet festive demand.

Hundreds of export containers of agricultural and general goods are held up that will miss sailings and impact on overseas farming and manufacturing trade contracts.

The CTAA says it has reports of "urgent imported medical supplies being held up, as well as goods imported for Christmas sales, and containers full of perishable goods like seafood destined for Christmas festive tables".

"If this picket is really a community protest as reported by the MUA, then surely the community have made their point, and it’s now time for Victoria Police, Fair Work Australia (FWA), the courts, the Port of Melbourne and the government to assist in ensuring that normal operations are resumed immediately," Chambers says.

"The MUA will be forever known as the Grinch that spoiled Christmas 2017 for many."

CTAA also calls on the main overseas shipping line affected, Hong Kong-based Orient Overseas Container Line (OOCL) to suspend their container detention and demurrage arrangements for all imported containers affected by the delay.


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