Ports operator DP World and its wharfies have clinched a deal for a 23.5 per cent pay increase, ending several months of industrial action gripping Australia’s container terminals.
In a stance rejected by the business lobby, Workplace Relations Minister Tony Burke used the end of the stalemate between the Dubai-based stevedore and the Maritime Union of Australia as vindication of his refusal to intervene in the wage dispute a fortnight ago.
“Had I intervened – as [Opposition Leader] Peter Dutton and others encouraged me to do – this dispute would have dragged on for months. It would have been the wrong call, and it highlights Mr Dutton’s appalling judgment,” Burke said.
Workers will receive an 8 per cent increase to their pay packets in the first year, plus 0.25 per cent income protection. In the second year they will receive a 7 per cent increase, 4 per cent in the third year, and 4.5 per cent in the fourth.
They will also receive back pay from the expiry of the last agreement and a $2000 sign-on bonus.
“This is how enterprise bargaining is meant to work: both parties negotiating in good faith to reach an agreement that acknowledges the common interests between employers and workers,” Burke said.
“While there are some processes still to complete, this in-principle agreement is good for the company, good for the workers and good for the Australian community.”
The stevedore and the union separately announced the in-principle agreement on Friday morning, which is yet to be endorsed by the workforce, promoting the deal as providing fair pay, safety and fatigue management measures, as well as job security and a fair work-life balance.
“The past fortnight has shown how quickly a fair and sustainable deal can be resolved once both the workforce and the employer are fully engaged in the negotiation process,” MUA assistant national secretary Adrian Evans said.
DP World Oceania executive vice president Nicolaj Noes said the company was focused on restoring the supply chain and rebuilding confidence among customers after the company said last month the industrial action had created a backlog that would take weeks to remedy.
But while Australian Industry Group chief executive Innes Willox welcomed the breakthrough, he said the industrial dispute had caused economic damage.
“It would have been better if the federal government had used its influence to resolve the dispute earlier rather than simply verbally beating up the company involved,” Willox said.
“That it didn’t intervene gives industry concern that it will stand by in similar disputes in the future and not play a role to resolve differences in disputes that have widespread economic consequences.”
Workers and the company had been negotiating in March, before industrial action began in October, as both parties were at loggerheads over a lengthy list of enterprise bargaining points that included the union’s call for 16 per cent pay increase over two years.
Australian Council of Trade Unions secretary Sally McManus last month accused Dubai royalty – DP World is part-owned by the Dubai government, a monarchy – of trying to bully the Albanese government into intervening in the dispute, while Opposition Leader Peter Dutton called on the government to stand against union interests.
During a press conference in Sydney on January 18, Burke accused the port operator of waging a media campaign and warned that people were “sick to death” of profitable companies using wages as a scapegoat for soaring prices.
“The concept that where every other business in Australia is expected to negotiate with their workforce, but this business wants to rely on ministerial intervention, is not a view that impresses me,” he said.
“Their presumption that they would find a political answer, rather than do what every other business in Australia is expected to do, was misguided.”
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