Preparations are underway for the first ITF conference focusing exclusively on automation in the port industry.
Dockers’ union representatives from around the world are set to attend the event in Sydney at the end of April, which will aim to address what ITF president Paddy Crumlin has called the ‘most controversial issue in the stevedoring industry’. The Maritime Union of Australia (MUA), of which Mr. Crumlin is the national secretary, is currently involved in a high level dispute with port operator Patricks over plans to automate on a large scale at Port Botany in Sydney. It is the stance of the ITF that automation cannot be imposed in the absence of negotiation and consultation with unions and that it must not be used as an opportunity to cull workforces.
ITF dockers’ section secretary Sharon James said: “Dockers’ unions are not afraid of the future – workers and their communities have at least as big a stake as the employers. We are meeting in Sydney to discuss how we should face the challenges and opportunities that automation brings, to develop strategies to ensure that workers share in the benefits and are able to shape a socially just approach to the introduction of new technologies in their workplaces. We are determined that automation will not be used as a means to break or reduce the power of unions.”
Affiliates will have the opportunity to hear about the experiences of unions in ports where automation is already in place like Rotterdam, Netherlands. It’s hoped that through the conference and with the input and feedback of affiliates, the ITF will be able to develop a consistent outline approach to automation, which unions can then apply in line with their own regional and local situations.