Sunday, March 29, 2020

Maritime Union Boss Asks Employers to Help Protect Public Health

Stevedores Need the Attitude Taken by Logistics and Intermodal
Shipping News Feature

AUSTRALIA – The scourge of the virus has, so far, been seen less in the country than many places elsewhere, but the curve is heading steeply upward very fast and now the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) has written to major businesses in Australia's marine supply chain seeking the urgent implementation of a consistent, industry-wide framework aimed at preventing viral transmission on worksites.

Currently the only mainland region almost completely free of any of the 4,000 or so reported cases is the vast and remote Northern Territory, an area with a population of only around 250,000, with most of the cases in the urban regions such as Sydney and Melbourne, and the union’s proposed framework has been drawn together based on current health advice, along with industry developments internationally, with the aim of ensuring best-practice measures are in place to protect the health and safety of maritime workers.

With approximately 98% of Australian imports arriving by sea, including essential medical supplies, food, fuel, and other household items, preventing the spread of this disease is vital to ensuring supply chains remain operational and freight continues to flow safely.

MUA National Secretary and International Transport Workers’ Federation President Paddy Crumlin said he was surprised and concerned that some Australian businesses, particularly stevedores, had been reluctant to meet and discuss the current situation, observing:

“While workers are acutely aware of the significant role they play in Australia’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic, some stevedores had taken an unfortunate and unsustainable approach, going it alone rather than embracing a consistent industry-wide solution. In other areas, such as intermodal and logistics, there has been a much more mature approach.

“That is why we are seeking to urgently meet with key businesses, in particular stevedores, to implement a clear, concise, consistent framework that addresses the identifiable health and safety risks this pandemic poses and acts on the advice of the Chief Medical Officer.

“The scale of this crisis places a collective responsibility on our vital industry to show leadership, find consensus, and implement immediate solutions that protect lives and prevent potential disruptions to our national supply chain. Thousands of maritime workers, including tug crews towing ships, linesmen tying them up, and wharfies loading and unloading them, are on the front line ensuring the current health and economic crisis isn’t exacerbated by the breakdown of supply chains.

“While our members remain committed to ensuring freight continues to move smoothly during this pandemic, this can only be achieved if the industry embraces appropriate measures to prevent the spread of Covid-19 on worksites. Not only could it be potentially catastrophic for workers who catch this virus, but any illness will cause substantial disruptions as highly-skilled workers are lost from their vital roles.

“We are urging all maritime employers to work with us to implement these protocols to minimise the risk of infection to workers or the general public.”