Clamour for end to VICT picket louder

VTA joins chorus calling for end to MUA action

Clamour for end to VICT picket louder
Things remain quiet at VICT


The Port of Melbourne’s reputation is at risk from the continued Victoria International Container Terminal (VICT) blockage, according to the Victorian Transport Association (VTA).

The warning from the peak freight and logistics industry representative group follows VICT’s revelation yesterday that the person the MUA is pressuring the stevedore to employ is ineligible to work on docks under Australian law because he failed to obtain a Maritime Security Identification Card (MSIC).

It comes as the end of Supreme Court of Victoria picket injunction period ends tomorrow.

"It is an affront to every Port of Melbourne stevedore and freight operator working in and around the port that the Victorian economy is continuing to be held to ransom by the MUA over what we now understand is a legal reason for this individual being ineligible for employment at the docks," VTA CEO Peter Anderson says.

"The effects of this ongoing action at our busiest time of the year are being felt right throughout the economy when you consider that the more than 1000 containers and their contents sitting idle at Webb Dock cannot be brought to market and sold to consumers during our peak retail trading period.

"Not only are VICT and the hundreds of freight operators that cannot move containers in and out of the terminal being impacted by this recalcitrant industrial action, so too are hundreds of small business operators and their families that are being denied access to goods demanded by Victorian consumers."

Anderson adds that it is a potential sovereign risk to the broader Victorian economy and the Port of Melbourne’s position as the nation’s largest port if the action is allowed to continue.

"VICT is already losing business to other Port of Melbourne stevedores through this action, but if foreign exporters determine Melbourne is an unreliable destination for freight forwarders they will send their business to ports in other states, at a massive cost to our economy," Anderson says.

"So, while this action may be confined to VICT for now, the real risk as we see it is the long-term reputational and economic damage the action will create for Victoria as a place to do business."

He implored all stakeholders involved in the action to put the interests of the Victorian economy first and work constructively to bring an end to industrial action that is undermining the state’s hard-fought reputation as a reliable place to do business.

"This is not the time for our leaders to run and hide but rather confront the real issue of adverse union action that is brutal and selfish, and has a negative effect on the livelihoods all Victorians," he says.

VICT CEO Anders Dømmestrup says union officials organising the picket at Webb Dock were demanding that VICT offer work to an MUA member with a criminal record that makes it illegal for him to work in the secure areas at Webb Dock under federal law.

"Those officials are trying to pressure VICT into offering work to a person who is ineligible to hold the security clearance necessary to work on docks," Dømmestrup says.

"They are pressuring us to do something that is illegal for us to do."

According to VICT, the timeline of the person’s failure to gain security clearance is as follows.

He began as a casual employee on November 28, 2016 and applied for an MSIC in February this year. He was notified in March that he had failed to gain an MSIC and informed VICT of this in November, after which VICT informed him he would no longer be offered shifts due to these circumstances.

"As it stands, the person concerned simply cannot be employed at VICT," Dømmestrup says.

"I am bewildered by the actions of the union officials.

"They have kept a picket in place since last week, preventing VICT from getting on with implementing the business growth we committed to the Andrews’ Government we would undertake as our contribution to the Government’s plan for Victoria’s economic well-being.

"The officials have kept over 1000 containers motionless on Webb Dock, badly affecting many small and medium-sized businesses, putting perishable goods at risk, damaging Victoria’s reputation as a reliable trading partner and giving Sydney’s Port Botany a competitive leg-up."

He reiterates that the MUA are party to VICT’s present enterprise agreement and this means that they approved it.

Meanwhile, with the blockade of Victoria International Container Terminal (VICT) now nearly two weeks old, the Container Transport Alliance A calls on the picketers to give Victorians a small Christmas present and allow trucks to collect the stranded containers on the docks.

"CTAA understands that due to the protest, ships originally destined for VICT have now been diverted to the Patrick Terminal, meaning that the flow of import and export containers has commenced again," CTAA director Neil Chambers says. 

"Importantly though, there are approximately a thousand containers still stuck inside VICT.  These include medical supplies, goods imported for Christmas sales and containers full of perishable food."

"It’s time, the MUA, CMFEU and other unions involved in the blockade to give Victorians an early Christmas present and allow empty trucks to enter VICT to collect the stranded containers.

"A partial lifting of the blockade, purely to allow the stranded containers to be collected, is one small concession the picketers could make to help the Victorian community prepare for Christmas and ensure urgently needed medical supplies get to where they are required," Chambers says.

"Last week, CTAA referred to the MUA as the 2017 'Christmas Grinch'. Allowing trucks in to collect the stranded containers, would go some way to show that the unions involved are thinking about Victorians at Christmas."

CTAA says it continues to call for the "full and speedy resolution of the dispute to allow container transport companies, and their hard working truck driver employees, to get on with serving Victoria’s important import and export community".


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