DP World workers strike against attack on rosters and pay

Workers at all four DP World port terminals around the country, members of the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA), took strike action on 16 November as part of their escalating bargaining campaign.

Sydney wharfies stopped for two hours across the shift changeover, so workers at neighbouring ports Patrick and Hutchison could join them in solidarity. The Transport Workers Union and the Rail Tram and Bus Union also joined the rally.

DP wants to impose a new roster that would mean more weekend work as well as hefty pay cuts. Workers want a decent pay rise given workers at competitor Patrick earn 11.5 per cent more—but DP is offering a below inflation pay rise of just 2.5 per cent.

DP are taking a hard line approach to bargaining. The union has already been in negotiations for over six months but the company are clearly trying to delay discussions and stare the union down.

In response, wharfies are escalating industrial action. The bargaining team has resolved that they will not pull actions when the company offers to meet for negotiations—last time this became a trick for management to simply offer a meeting, agree to nothing, and buy themselves another five-day notification period before further protected industrial action.

This is a good step forward and all terminals should adopt this approach in future.

Workers are into their eighth week of industrial action. Six 24 hour stoppages were taken in the first month alone. Two further 24 hour stoppages were planned the week Solidarity went to press.

Workers have also imposed bans on shift upgrades, late call-ins, overtime, and imposed stoppages at the end of shifts so wharfies go home early. There are alternative vessel and road-and-rail bans during the week, and ships are not worked until eight hours after they are tied up.

Industrial action has been focused on weekdays, allowing workers to take better paid weekend shifts to help keep money in their pockets. Casuals are getting very little work—however workers were encouraged to save up in advance.

Many of DP’s usual customers are contracting ships to Hutchison ports. Hutchison wharfies are less than enthusiastic to work them, but anti-strike laws make it illegal to undertake “secondary boycotts” in solidarity.

New intractable bargaining laws mean the company could stall and then apply to the Fair Work Commission for arbitration after nine months of negotiations. The MUA is determined to make DP feel the pain and move on key issues well before this. The task now is to stick to their guns and be prepared to keep escalating.

By Erima Dall

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