A bitter workplace dispute between the Maritime Union and the country’s second largest container terminal operator DP World has come to an end, after the parties agreed to an “in-principle agreement” on a new enterprise deal.
The truce follows a series of rolling strikes and work bans organised by the union over the past four months, as it opposed new rostering arrangements and sought to increase pay in-line with stevedores employed at rival stevedoring company Patrick Terminals.
As a result of the protected industrial action, a backlog of some 50,000 containers has piled up at DP World facilities in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Fremantle, sparking an increase in the operator’s charges.
The fresh workplace agreement, which is subject to endorsement by MUA membership at DP World, replaces a pre-existing deal between the union and the company which expired in September.
In response to the in-principle deal, which included provisions on safety, compensation, and job security guarantees, the MUA has agreed to withdraw all industrial action, and stevedores will return to work.
Welcoming the deal, the union’s assistant secretary Adrian Evans said he was pleased the negotiation process had concluded.
“The past fortnight has shown how quickly a fair and sustainable deal can be resolved once both the workforce and the employer are fully engaged in the negotiation process,” Mr Evans claimed.
“Wharfies perform hard, physical work on 24-hour, seven day working week, in all conditions and all seasons. They are amongst the hardest working, most productive and most flexible workforces in the Australian economic landscape.”
Nicolaj Noes, executive vice president at DP World Oceania, also expressed his satisfaction with the outcome.
“This agreement is a testament to our commitment to our workforce and to providing uninterrupted services to our customers,” Mr Noes said.
“We are now focused on moving forward, restoring the supply chain operations, and working collaboratively with our employees to rebuild confidence among our customers and make a positive impact on the national economy.”
The agreement follows a stunning rebuke of DP World by Workplace Relations Minister Tony Burke who in early January accused the company of engaging in a media campaign against the MUA rather than reaching a new enterprise agreement.
At the time, Mr Burke also emphatically rejected a bid by DP World to have him intervene in the dispute and request the workplace umpire order mandatory arbitration between the parties.
Workplace Minister Tony Burke was contacted for comment.