On December 12 the Supreme Court of Victoria handed down orders to end pickets and blockades by the MUA and and the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) outside VICT in Melbourne.
Pickets started earlier this month after VICT withdrew shifts from one of its workers who had not obtained a Maritime Security Identification Card (MISC). The individual was one of around 20 people working at the terminal without an MSIC, and was also a Union organizer. VICT claimed it was not legally able to employ the individual, while the MUA claimed it was victimising him for “trying to raise legitimate worker concerns with management.”
The MUA has a raft of issues with VICT over contracts, pay rates and working conditions at the new automated facility, none of which is particularly new in the context of industrial relations at Australian ports. What has changed, however, is how the ITF is pushing hard to broaden its fight against ICTSI into a global battle that is fought wherever ICTSI operates.
There are disputes in several locations around world involving other terminal operators at this moment, but the ITF has singled out ICTSI for a global campaign. Paddy Crumlin, president of the ITF stated: “No matter where you look across ICTSI’s global network there is industrial trouble because the company insists on running an anti-worker, union busting agenda and no-one wants that at the expense of decent pay, conditions and job security.
“We’ve seen ongoing dramas in Madagascar, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea and the cancer has now spread to Australia. Everyone is awake to ICTSI’s destructive ways and won’t cop it anymore."
Some of the ITF’s actions, including a recently failed attempt to disrupt to an ICTSI speaker at the TOC conference in Durban, have fallen flat. The orgnisation, however, is still promising to escalate local issues at ICTSI terminals into a global fight. “Any shipping line considering partnering with ICTSI must be asking themselves whether they want to be associated with a company with demonstrated operational and governance problems. The latest turmoil at ICTSI’s Melbourne terminal demonstrates that the company cannot quarantine its flagship, automated terminal, from issues endemic across its global network,” the ITF stated.
Meanwhile in Melbourne, the protests/pickets outside VICT continued in spite of the court order. Yesterday the Victorian Transport Association (VTA) repeated its call for the unions to end their action. “Despite the Court order, it is our understanding that the picket is still in place and trucks are not able to access containers at VICT,” said VTA CEO Peter Anderson. “This arrogant defiance of a Supreme Court order is continuing to disrupt activities at the terminal, as well as trade and commerce throughout the state during the busiest time of the year for small businesses that are being denied access to their goods...
“Breaking the law, as the CFMEU and MUA are doing by defying these orders, is irresponsible, immature and selfish. It’s time they grew up and stop holding VICT and Victorians to ransom through these actions.”