Australian Wharfies Angered Over Canceled Leave

Wharfies in Fremantle courtesy of the MUA
Wharfies in Fremantle courtesy of the MUA

Published Jan 20, 2020 5:20 PM by The Maritime Executive

Australian wharfies employed at DP World in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Fremantle have had approved leave canceled by the stevedoring operator, with the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) describing the move as an unlawful and aggressive attack on workers’ rights.

DP World Australia, the largest stevedore in Australia employing over 1,800 waterfront workers, notified workers that previously approved leave had been canceled immediately. The company also banned workers from meeting with union representatives on company property and ordered union officials out of carparks where they were waiting to meet members during work breaks.

MUA Assistant National Secretary Warren Smith said: “The timing, in the middle of the summer school holidays, has clearly been chosen to cause maximum hardship for workers. All the company is doing though is solidifying the unity and resolve of wharfies nationally to stand up and fight back until they win their just demands off this global giant.”

Smith alleges that DP World has also canceled some Christmas bonuses, sacked staff and threatened mass sackings. “This ‘take it or leave it’ stuff might work for DP World elsewhere in their global operations, but wharfies will fight hard to defend against the threats,” he said, promising further industrial action, including strikes.

Earlier this month two hundred wharfies at the Dubai Ports container terminal in Fremantle stopped work for 24 hours, accusing the company of failing to bargain in good faith as negotiations for a new workplace agreement have been underway for over 15 months.

The action follows strikes staged in July last year at Fremantle, Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane after the company confirmed the loss of around 250 jobs Australia-wide. At the time, chief operating officer Andrew Adam said the company had no choice as it had lost market share. "With the current position of the union, there is not a prospect of an agreement, so we have to continue to manage the business in light of those cost items."