Trouble has been brewing for six weeks, since DP World warned it would strip workers of income protection insurance under a proposed labour agreement that also includes a 2.6 per cent pay increase.Maritime Union of Australia
(MUA) members voted to launch "industrial action" against DP World Australia starting from March 22. Along with rolling strikes of between one and 24 hours, including bans on overtime and shift extensions."Importers [and] exporters start feeling detrimental impacts if delays are extended beyond 12-24 hours, although with advance notice, transport operators can make alternative arrangements," said Paul Zalai, director of the Freight & Trade Alliance (FTA) and the Australian Peak Shippers Association. The FTA represents nearly 100 importers and exporters and shipping related firms, including the Australian Cotton Shippers Association, the Australian Meat Industry Council, Cargill, Kmart Australia, Costco Wholesale Australia, Airbus, Alibaba, Target, and Toshiba.The strike is limited to the DP World Australia-operated terminals at Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, and Fremantle. But shippers fear the dispute could spread to terminals operated by other companies if cargo owners and container attempt to divert cargo normally handled by DP World to those facilities. In addition to DP World Australia's operations, Hutchison Port Australia, part of Hong Kong's Hutchison Port Holdings, has terminals at Sydney and Brisbane, while Philippines-based International Container Terminal Services Inc (ICTSI) has a terminal at Melbourne and Patrick Terminals operates facilities in Sydney, Brisbane, and Fremantle."We recently witnessed a situation whereby industrial action at Hutchison spread to other stevedoring operations that accepted the working of affected vessels on a sub-contracted basis. What was once a work-around to ensure business continuity may no longer be a viable option," Mr Zalai said, adding that the delays caused by the Hutchison dispute spread lmost immediately?to other facilities when lines switched terminals.Trouble has been brewing for about six weeks, ever since DP World Australia warned it would strip workers of income protection insurance under a proposed labour agreement that also includes a 2.6 per cent pay increase.Australia's Fair Work Commission approved the union's application to go ahead with industrial action in mid-February, but said the union must give DP World five days?notice of any strike action.