A meeting on 18 January between DP World Australia, the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) and Australian transport minister Tony Burke has proved unsuccessful, and the port strikes will go on to the end of the month.
Dock workers throughout Australia have been striking since October in a pay dispute against port operator DP World. DP world estimated this has cost the economy A$1.34bn.
The meeting resulted in Mr Burke refusing to intervene, despite being requested to do so by DP World and multiple stakeholders in Australian shipping. This led the MUA again extending strike action to 30 January.
Maersk warned customers today that port operations at Sydney, Melbourne, Freemantle and Brisbane will see bouts of two-hour work stoppages every day from 22 January.
According to Sky news Australia, Mr Burke said: ““I’ve made clear to both groups today that I have no intention of intervening. I’ve made clear that I have an expectation that they will reach agreement.”
However, he indicated that he sympathised with the union.
“I think Australians are sick to death of having highly profitable companies say everything is the fault of them having to pay their workforce the same as their competitors.”
The director of Australian freight forwarder Neolink, Sean Crook, told The Loadstar: “This is a situation that the government cannot avoid and have to get involved at some point.
“At the moment, you have a stalemate between an overseas-controlled entity not budging, the union wanting significant pay increases and a government refusing to play mediator – all the while Australian consumers and businesses have to deal with inefficient supply chains and increased costs, which ultimately will not allow us to compete on the global stage.”
Mr Crook warned that carriers were increasing freight rates, not only because of Red Sea issues on the Europe to Australia tradelane, but also due to the incredibly slow vessel turnarounds at ports. He said: “As inflation eases, I am concerned that an increase in costs, lower productivity and efficiency will ultimately flow through to Australian consumers at a period where the cost of living here is on the rise.”
Mr Burke did recommend that the Fair Work Commission could aid a resolution. He said: “It is in the interests of everybody, that they negotiate and they use the Fair Work Commission to help them with that conciliation.”
However, Mr Crook warned that even if a resolution was reached, it might not last.
He said: “There is a real chance that, even if a deal gets done, we could see collective bargaining agreements expire in 2025, which would create massive concerns.”
Source: The Loadstar