DP World faces rolling enterprise bargaining strikes

DPWA points to deteriorating conditions while union remains implacable

DP World faces rolling enterprise bargaining strikes
Warren Smith


Stevedore DP World Australia (DPWA) and, by extension, the nation’s port container haulage and logistics sector are facing a period of enterprise bargaining instability and disruption.

Fresh from failing to win an appeal in the Fair Work Commission (FWC) last month against an "exceptional circumstances" extension of two days before protected industrial action could start, the Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union (CFMMEU) is forging ahead with industrial action.

The extra delay was sought to organise alternative stevedoring for its customers.

The action involves a 48 hour strike at the stevedore’s Brisbane, Sydney and Fremantle container terminals, and one for 96 hours in Melbourne.

"It is possible that this is the beginning of significant disruptions at DP World terminals in the near future unless the parties are able to finalise their long-running and arduous Enterprise Agreement (EA) negotiations," Container Transport Alliance Australia tells its members in an alert.

"No doubt DP World will be working to try to diminish the impact of these stoppages on their shipping line clients, and on landside operations.

"Inevitably however, containers will become stranded inside DP World terminals this week."

Read how the MUA merged with the CFMEU, here

The union, which has the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) under its umbrella, insists the move is "against automation, outsourcing, cuts to income protection insurance, and dishonest bargaining by the company which is trying to use change provisions in existing agreements to secure outcomes it cannot bargain into new agreements".

A two day strike began in Brisbane this morning and Sydney and Fremantle workers will strike this Thursday and Friday, while Melbourne will be out from Wednesday until Sunday morning.

Workers have also imposed a range of indefinite work bans, including bans on upgrades, overtime, and shift extensions.

DPWA has challenged the use of work bans in the FWC, with a decision pending.

According to MUA assistant national secretary Warren Smith, management was also "insisting on including provisions in a new workplace agreement that could see waterfront jobs lost to outsourcing and automation".

"Our members have shown incredible patience in an attempt to reach resolution with DP World, including by agreeing to hold off on any form of industrial action for three months, but despite that good will management are refusing to budge on these key issues," Smith says.

A DPWA spokesperson reportedly states negotiations will not be further undertaken under the threat of industrial action and that the firm was facing a significant downturn in business while competitors were lowering costs due to automation.

Meanwhile, the company has expressed "disappointment" at the move to strikes, "particularly at a time when shipping lines are reviewing stevedore contracts".

"The industrial action will cause significant disruption to DPWA customers and importantly the broader supply chain of shippers, exporters and importers. DPWA employees will also be unnecessarily and avoidably impacted by these lost earnings," chief operating officer Andrew Adam says.

During the recent 12-week bargaining period, the union did not make any material concessions to their initial 50 claims, the stevedore states. These include a wage increase well above CPI, without any willingness to support the needs of DPWA.It says the union continues to "demonstrate an alarming refusal to acknowledge the commercial reality of the intense competition from automated competitors".

"The union must consider urgent workplace reform to allow DPWA to address evolving customer expectations, declining volume and eroding margins," Adam says.

"Improvements to workplace productivity and the capability to adjust to market needs are vital to job security."

The stevedore argues that unprecedented consolidation of, and changes to, global shipping lines calling to Australia, combined with surplus stevedoring capacity, are "contributing to DPWA’s challenging financial outlook".

It continues to maintain that it will only negotiate enterprise agreement terms that secure the business’ long-term, ongoing sustainability. 

"Likewise, DPWA will only resume negotiations for a fair and equitable enterprise agreement once industrial action has ceased," it says

It is reported the DPWA offer is for a wage rise of 2.6 per cent and a rollover of conditions, while the union is seeking 5 per cent and stronger conditions.


You can also follow our updates by joining our LinkedIn group or liking us on Facebook