ABOUT 230 wharfies at Fremantle’s container terminal have begun a two-day strike, joining industrial action already underway in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane.
About 1800 workers are involved across the country after the end of a three-month ceasefire agreement between ports operator DP World and the Maritime Union of Australia.
The union claims it is fighting the outsourcing of jobs, cuts to income protection insurance and plans for automation which could cause job losses.
But DP World says the union has refused to budge in negotiations and needs to acknowledge the company’s commercial reality amid increased competition from automated competitors.
Chief operating officer Andrew Adam said the action would cause significant disruption to customers and the broader supply chain.
“The union must now make appropriate concessions to their extensive list of claims,” he said.
The company’s revenue is expected to take a hit of about $1 million, while the industry impact would be more than $1 million and lost earnings for employees could total more than $500,000.
The strike is expected to affect shippers, exporters and importers.
It comes on top of a range of other industrial measures including bans on overtime and shift extensions.
“Wharfies have not taken this action lightly, but the insistence of Dubai Ports management on an agreement that would have significant and unacceptable detrimental impacts on workers has left them with no choice but to take strike action,” MUA West Coast deputy secretary Adrian Evans said on Thursday.
Mr Evans said a key sticking point was the company’s refusal to include domestic violence leave in the agreement.
“Dubai Ports claim to be a White Ribbon workplace, but when it comes to supporting employees who become victims of domestic violence, they go missing in action,” he said.
“Raising awareness is great, but it’s time to take the next step and actually do something to support employees when they desperately need it.”
The previous agreement between the union and the company expired in February.
Premier Mark McGowan urged the company and union to “get together to resolve the issue as soon as possible”.