Friday, 22 February 2019

Wharfies ordered to give five days notice before strikes

The union’s assistant national secretary, Warren Smith, right, said the commission’s decision to impose “almost double” the standard notice requirement was “a fundamental curtailing of the democratic rights of Australian workers”.

WORKPLACE EDITOR
DP World has successfully mitigated the impact of threatened strike action by 1800 wharfies in four states, convincing the Fair Work Commission to require the maritime union to give five days’ notice of industrial action.
Commission deputy president Geoff Bull extended the standard notice period from three days to five days, backing DP World’s claim that three days was not enough time to mitigate the impact on third parties including shipping operators, transport companies and exporters.
Warren Smith, the union’s assistant national secretary, said the commission’s decision to impose “almost double” the standard notice requirement was “a fundamental curtailing of the democratic rights of Australian workers”. He said the union would appeal against the decision.
The commission approved a protected action ballot, with wharfies to vote on whether to support industrial action, including 24-hour strikes, at the company’s operations in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Fremantle.
Workers are threatening the action in protest at the company’s decision to cancel a union-backed income protection scheme.
The ballot orders were not opposed by DP World but it said the longer notice period was justified under the “exceptional circumstances” provisions of the Fair Work Act.
DP World’s customers include shipping lines whose vessels call at Australian ports to be discharged and loaded. Vessels need to be stevedored and able to sail again within a planned shipping window because delays in a particular port can have a cascading effect contributing to delays at subsequent ports of call.
DP World said delays became acute where they flow on and require a vessel to omit a port of call. The cost would be borne by the vessel operator which may or may not be the shipping line.
DP World estimated the cost of omitting a port could be about $200,000 to $400,000 as containers were unloaded at a different port and reloaded on a different ship. The ship could be forced to increase speed to match a new schedule and additional storage charges could be imposed on export containers that are unable to be loaded on to the original vessel because of the port omission.
During strike action, stevedores generally seek to subcontract work to rival operators, but DP World said subcontracting was not an attractive option as it would force it to forgo most of its revenue to another company and, in some cases, lose money.
The union said the justification for the extra two days’ notice put forward by the company was “no more than mere inconvenience” to DP World and did not provide exceptional circumstances.
Mr Bull said he accepted inconvenience and delay caused to DP World would generally be part of what protected industrial action was designed to cause and could not be seen as creating an exceptional circumstance. But he said where the reasons for further notice went beyond the immediate interests of DP World and its employees and extended to third parties, primarily the shipping lines, they were exceptional.
He said three working days’ notice was insufficient for DP World to subcontract out the stevedoring in an attempt to mitigate the potential disruption to shipping.

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