Dire Need

“The situation on the Australian waterfront is in dire need of change” - so begins the 20-page report "Qualification and Automation International Study: Toward Best Practice in Occupational Health and Safety on the Waterfront."

The report represents the findings of a delegation of a dozen MUA officials and waterside workers who visited four ports over two weeks from September 18-October 2, to find and study world’s best practice for stevedoring safety and training.

The delegation also studied automated technology now beginning to make a mark on the Australian waterfront.

“All four ports – Antwerp, Rotterdam, Vancouver and Los Angeles – displayed far superior training and safety for wharf labour,” said Warren Smith, assistant national secretary and delegation leader.

“Safety is eally a priority issue overseas and it is seen as being linked to training and qualifications. Employers view this approach as enhancing productivity and creating a safer workplace.” “In all cases training was far in advance of our own requirements, inducting processes for new waterside workers were of better quality with a greater emphasis on safety.” 

In Europe training was first priority. In northern America regulation was the best in the world.

That’s why the recommendations arising from the MUA report are for Australia to model our training on European ports and our regulations on the US.

“The European cultural tradition of social partnership created a higher degree of inclusion for unions and the workers. Unions are allowed a better and more sensible outcome on training and qualifications applicable to dockers. Often his is related tofar superior IR environments where union action around safety has not been curtailed by anti union workplace laws,” Warren Smith said.

Belgium had by far the best training; the USA the best regulation.

“A combination of both of these would provide absolute best practice for work safety on the Australian waterfront,” he said.

The report recommended: • a national training school on both the East and West coasts of Australia with government funding for capital equipment and a tripartite board made up of union, employer and government representatives

• uniform induction process initiated through joint talks with all industry stakeholders
• government and employer investment in high quality simulator programs for straddle, ship’s crane, mobile slew and job crane, gantry and RTG cranes
• Transport and Logistics Industry Skills Council to develop industry safety plans and training
• METL to become a RTO for training. In regulation the report recommends the MUA continue its work on the Safe Work Australia Temporary Advisory Group towards implementation of national stevedoring regulation.

An ongoing body of regulators and industry stakeholders should then be set up to review industry changes and ongoing development of regulations.

The report recommends regulation should govern training and certification requirements for waterside workers.

The delegation included: Warren Smith - Assistant National Secretary Kevin Bracken - Victorian State Secretary Tony Austin - Assistant Queensland Branch Secretary Noel Nielssen - West Australian Organiser Rick Blake - DPW Brisbane Site Committee member Mick McClennan - DPW Brisbane Site Committee member Brett Nicholls Patrick Terminal Brisbane Site Committee member Kevin Fennesy - DPW Melbourne Site Committee member Hugh Doherty - Patrick Melbourne Gavin Bostick - Patrick Sydney Site Committee member Michael Marketo - DPW Sydney Site Committee member Robert Sax - Patrick West Australia.