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Published: 13 Dec 2023
MARITIME UNION OF AUSTRALIA
13 December 2023
Dubai Ports’ managers walk away from negotiations on the cusp of Christmas
In the latest blow to the prospect of industrial agreement at one of Australia’s three major stevedoring employers, management and HR representatives from Dubai Ports have walked away from negotiations with the Maritime Union of Australia, citing their company’s white-collar shutdown throughout Summer, despite wharfies being expected to work 24/7 across the Christmas and New Year period.
At the close of six days of facilitated bargaining meetings which the Union had forced the company to engage with by application to the Fair Work Commission, an in-principle agreement has still not been reached to deliver fair pay, job security and safe working conditions at four container terminals in Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne and Perth. Rather than continue negotiating, company representatives sought to shelve all further meetings until January 29th 2024.
“Dubai Ports’ management team dragged their feet and failed to settle an in-principle agreement during six days of facilitated bargaining, which concluded on Saturday afternoon,” explained the MUA’s Assistant National Secretary, Adrian Evans.
“The MUA have been bargaining with Dubai Ports since March 2023 with very little movement. The Union had suspended our protected industrial action while there was progress in negotiations and we had hoped to reach an in-principle agreement last week, but at the end of the sixth day there were still key issues outstanding and the company indicated they were unavailable to meet until January 29 at the earliest, some seven weeks away,” Evans said.
The company has been mired in delays, backlogs and congestion at their four terminals caused by their mismanagement of mission critical IT systems which were the subject of a major cyber attack in November. They are now seeking to blame hard working wharfies, who had offered to revert to processing containers using pen and paper during the cyber-attack, for the logistical and financial woes caused by their failure to maintain or secure their systems.
Dubai Ports has also flagged fees for freight customers would rise at their four ports by as much as 52% in the new year. Wharfies are asking for a pay rise that keeps up with the cost-of-living crisis, while at the same time the company gouges from small businesses, trucking companies and, through them, Australian consumers.
The Union has flagged that – if the company cannot be bothered to participate in bargaining before the beginning of the second month of 2024 – the program of protected industrial action the workforce had pursued in recent months would recommence.
“As a consequence of DP World’s dogged undermining of the bargaining process, which will now enter its ninth month, workers are left with no option but to recommence lawful, legitimate and reasonable protected industrial action in order to get an agreement in a timely manner,” Evans said.
“DP World’s Australian managers, and their ideologically driven legal representatives, only have themselves to blame for this collapse in the bargaining process. The MUA remain available to meet to bring the negotiations to a close, but management seem more focussed on their Christmas holidays while expecting wharfies continue to work 24/7 throughout the holiday season.”