Letter to Stevedoring Employers

MUA National Secretary Paddy Crumlin yesterday sent the following letter to all major stevedoring employers POAGS, DP World, Patricks, Toll, Asciano

Re:            Stevedoring Safety - Urgent Review

I am writing to follow up our recent discussions regarding an urgent review of managing and delivering occupational health and safety in the Australian stevedoring industry.

Recent mortalities are further proof of the MUA's stated contention over recent years that employers, the union, Government and the workforce must work together to devise and implement better solutions for the management and regulation of occupational health and safety on the Australian waterfront.  The union is committed to that outcome and is committed to work with Government, employers and the workforce to ensure there is a transformation in the way stevedoring safety is managed in Australia.  This escalation in mortality rates is not acceptable to any of the stakeholders and will have a short and long term debilitating effect on Australian waterfront productivity unless urgently addressed.

With that objective and commitment in mind I have written this week to the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations, the Hon Julia Gillard, and the Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government, the Hon Anthony Albanese about stevedoring safety.  I have asked both Ministers for political intervention and support to establish a high level process or a national framework approach for reforming stevedoring safety in Australia. 

I have suggested to Ministers that they establish a National Stevedoring Safety Task Force to prepare for the changes that are so urgently required if we are to ensure there are no more fatalities and to reduce injury on the Australian waterfront.  I know from our discussions that your company is just as committed as we are to that objective.

We cannot achieve that outcome without a strong role from Government given their control of the legislative and regulatory framework in which employers and the workforce must operate.

You are aware that we have long held the view that there should be minimum national enforceable standards for stevedoring OHS and that remains our view.  We have played a leading and active role in the review of Marine Orders Part 32 (Cargo loading), in pressing for application of improved Memoranda between AMSA and State/NT OHS regulatory agencies and in development of the Safe Work Australia nationalised Stevedoring Guidance material.  However, we have remained concerned at the complexity of the Commonwealth and State/NT legislative mix, the poor quality of the interface between the jurisdictions and jurisdictional regulators and the lack of nationally consistent application of safety management systems for stevedoring.

It is our view that now is the ideal time to reform the framework for the benefit of all parties.  We can make it a win-win solution with the full cooperation of all stevedoring employers.  We say now is an ideal time for reform because the Commonwealth is well advanced in the harmonisation of OHS legislation, regulation and codes of practice; a rewrite of the Navigation Act has been announced and has commenced; there is progress towards implementing the COAG decision of a single national safety regulator for the commercial shipping industry; and the Government is developing a National Ports Strategy. 

In this context I make a personal request that you and your company commit to working with the union and Government in a high level process to achieve reform of stevedoring OHS.  I have asked the Ministers to ensure their offices and Departments/Agencies be part of an initial high level meeting to get the process moving.  I hope we can organise that meeting in the next 2 weeks.

I look forward to working with you in this endeavour and importantly, I look forward to your agreement to work with the process as I have outlined.

Yours sincerely