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International unions throw support behind Australian wharfies as dispute with DP World escalates

01 Aug 2019
Press Release
Maritime and transport unions from dozens of nations have thrown their support behind Australian wharfies fighting job losses, outsourcing, automation and threats to conditions at container terminals in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Fremantle.

Unions representing millions of workers across the Middle East, Asia, Europe, Africa, North America, South America and the Pacific have written to Dubai-based port operator DP World highlighting the fact that the mistreatment of Australian dock workers is threatening positive industrial relations around the world.

Pledges of solidarity and support, as well as the correspondence, makes clear that international unions won’t sit idly by while DP World carries out unilateral attacks on the workplace rights and conditions of Australian dock workers, and collectively calls on the company to return to the negotiating table.

The International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF), which represents 18.5 million workers across the world, condemned DP World Australia’s actions.

“Internationally, unions are alarmed by the actions of DP World Australia and have warned the company’s management in their ports all over the world that these attacks are threatening ongoing good industrial relations with their union and dockers unions worldwide,” ITF maritime coordinator, Jacqueline Smith.

“The dispute has been repeatedly escalated by DP World, starting with an attack on income protection, then threats to outsource and automate jobs, and now a refusal to meet with the Maritime Union of Australia to open a dialogue about how job losses can be mitigated through rostering changes instead of forced redundancies.

“ITF affiliates have made clear to DP World management that they strongly condemn any attempt to outsource jobs to lower-paid, non-union contractors at the expense of experienced dock workers, which can only be seen as a union-busting exercise,” said Smith.

ITF Dockers’ Section vice-chair and International Longshore and Warehouse Union President William Adams also joined the condemnation of threats from DP World Australia’s management to outsource and automate operations in Australian terminals.

“DP World’s threat to automate its Australian operations has been condemned internationally. Clauses that ensure workers are protected, retrained and reskilled following automation are a priority issue for dock workers’ globally.

“This was highlighted during recent industrial disputes with the ILWU in Canada and the US that have resulted in mutually agreed settlements that set out worker protections and a negotiating process between the union and employers for automation.

“Outsourcing and automation have significant impacts on productivity and profitability, as well as major social and community impacts on workers and their communities, which is why any attempt to water down union consultation requirements will be rejected by dockers unions around the globe.

“Dockers internationally are uniting to take the fight to the doorstep of any employer threatening dockers jobs and working conditions, and right now DP World are in our sights,” said Adams.
 

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