Another industrial dispute at DP World is leading to crane shortages in Brisbane port

Another industrial dispute at DP World is leading to crane shortages in Brisbane port

A crippling strike at some of DP World's port terminals may have come to an end after a deal was reached with the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA), but now in Brisbane a logistics industry body has raised concerns over another industrial dispute that is affecting the reliability and maintenance of automatic stacking cranes (ASCs) used to load and unload trucks.

Container Transport Alliance Australia (CTAA) director Neil Chambers says industrial negotiations between DP World and the Electrical Trades Union (ETU) seem to have stalled, "with the union reportedly not fronting to talks scheduled last Friday, and the company insisting that Protected Industrial Actions (PIAs) be lifted before talks continue".

"CTAA understands that the negotiations impact just 16 employees involved in electrical trades maintaining and repairing the terminal’s handling equipment, including the ASC modules," Chambers explains.

"The company has reportedly offered remuneration increases of 6 per cent, 4 per cent, 4 per cent and 4.5 per cent over a four-year deal. However allegedly the ETU is hanging out for the same headline deal struck with the MUA, including an 8 per cent increase in the first year, followed by 7 per cent, 4 per cent and 4.5 per cent in subsequent years."

He says unfortunately industrial relations laws are "adversarial in nature".

"We seem to be constantly running into intractable stand-offs between employee representatives and employers during protected industrial bargaining periods. And these stand-offs cost Australia’s international supply chains dearly," Chambers says.

"Make no mistake – the landside impacts of the ASC breakdowns and unavailability in the DP World Brisbane Terminal are extreme."

Chambers claims a review of notices issued by DP World Brisbane show that in January there were 90 instances of ASC breakdowns and unavailability, and in February to date there have been more than 60 instances.

"Importers need to appreciate that if their import containers have been landed in an ASC Module after discharge from the vessel, and subsequently that Module goes out of service, the containers are stuck until the Module is returned to service," he says.

The alliance claims truck turnaround times have blown out to between two to five hours with transport operators forced to allocate more labour, including over weekends and on night shift at much higher operating costs, to try to keep up with the delayed freight demand through the DP World Brisbane Terminal.

"Conservatively, the delays are costing container transport operators more than 20 per cent extra in operating costs, including for truck waiting times, additional container handling and staging, and added labour costs," Chambers says.

"Last week, a senior DP World official was quoted in the trade media as saying that there was no impact on the supply chain or day-to-day operations caused by this dispute.

"CTAA finds those statements to be disingenuous, and we invite that spokesperson to get out of their ivory tower in Sydney and come to Brisbane to witness the delays first-hand.

"CTAA Alliance companies in Brisbane would be happy to put them in a truck, on night shift, and have them sit with the driver for a few hours waiting to be loaded or unloaded.

"CTAA will be raising this issue with the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator as it continues to consider CoR (Chain of Responsibility) actions and responsibilities in the container transport logistics chain."
 

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