DP World workers take strike action over conditions

Maritime union members vote for strike action in February. Photo: Maritime Union of Australia

Up to 2000 waterfront workers at DP World container terminals across Australia went on strike to oppose the multinational company’s attacks on working conditions. The strikes began on July 8 and continued through the week, with workers in Brisbane, Fremantle and Sydney striking for 48 hours and for 96 hours in Melbourne.

The industrial action by members of the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) was taken in opposition to the use of automation, outsourcing, cuts to income protection insurance and dishonest bargaining by the company, which is using change provisions in existing agreements to secure outcomes it cannot bargain into new agreements.

It follows the expiry of a three-month ceasefire agreement between DPW and the union. Since then the company has pressed ahead with an agenda of job cuts and attacks on rights and conditions.

This is despite DP World Australia having paid zero corporate tax in the four years up to 2016-17 (the last year for which these figures are publicly available), while earning more than $500 million each year.

MUA assistant national secretary Warren Smith said the company had unnecessarily escalated the conflict earlier this year when it unilaterally stripped workers of income protection insurance.

Smith said: “Management initially used the wellbeing of workers and their families as a bargaining tool, and wharfies don’t take kindly to that kind of corporate bullying and intimidation.

“We will not roll over and accept an unfair agreement, we won’t accept unilateral attacks on workplace rights and conditions and we won’t stand by while outsourcing and automation are used to axe quality jobs from the Australian waterfront.

“We are fully committed to reaching an agreement as quickly as possible, however, we will not sell out conditions, compromise our core claims or undermine industry standards to do it.”

Resolutions of support for the DPW workers have come from other waterfront workers around the country, as well as the Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union and other unions.