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Union demands out of step with economic reality: ALC

The continued industrial action pursued by the Construction Forestry Maritime Mining and Energy Union (CFMMEU) threatens stevedore operations and hurts Australian households and supply chain businesses according to the Australian Logistics Council (ALC).

After a recent 12-week bargaining period, the CFMMEU have remained unwavering in negotiations for their initial 50 claims which included, to stevedore DP World Australia's opposition, a wage increase above Consumer Price Index (CPI).

Up to 100,000 shipping containers had been delayed by the industrial action, according to ALC CEO Kirk Coninham, further damaging Australia's international competitiveness at a time of great urgency in a consumer driven economy.

“Boosting productivity on the waterfront will be critical to maintain Australia’s international competitiveness, and to our ability to meet a growing domestic freight task," he said.

"This is something that stevedores, port operators and shipping lines have long recognised. It is time unions did the same,” said Coningham.

“Changing demand patterns and new technologies mean we are living in a different economic reality. To ensure sustainability into the future, our supply chains will need to embrace the greater use of technology in day-to-day operations.”

Coningham added, “Rather than retreating to the tired tactics of yesteryear and pursuing unviable claims, the CFMMEU should embrace this new reality by working cooperatively with stevedores like DP World Australia and others to ensure the workforce is equipped with the skills needed to adapt to a changing world.”

The Union, according to statement issued by DP World Australia, refused through ongoing action, to acknowledge the commercial reality of the intense competition from automated competitors.

“The industrial action will cause significant disruption to DPWA customers and importantly the broader supply chain of shippers, exporters and importers," said Andrew Adam, DPWA Chief Operating Officer.

"DPWA employees will also be unnecessarily and avoidably impacted by these lost earnings,” he said.

"The Company has put forward its position and the Union must now make appropriate concessions to their extensive list of claims."

Australia’s quayside productivity levels do not compare favourably to those of other industrialised nations the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) found in its Container Stevedoring Monitoring Report 2017-18.

Coningham said it was essential that the industry addressed and reversed the trend in order to maintain living standards.

“Protracted industrial action accompanied by unrealistic demands for inflexible protections in enterprise agreements is not going to achieve that outcome," he said.

"It will simply drive up costs, threatening the viability of stevedoring operations in Australia and forcing employers to seek new ways of doing business.”

“Australian consumers should not be paying the price for a protracted industrial dispute that directly jeopardises jobs on the waterfront, and indirectly threatens jobs right through the supply chain.”

DPWA maintains that it will make an enterprise agreement on terms that secure the business’ long-term, ongoing sustainability.

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