Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Police Enter RoRo Ferry Dispute as Freight Delayed by Protestors

Shippers of Perishable Goods the Principal Victims in a Row that is Not Their Responsibility
Shipping News Feature

AUSTRALIA – The Tasmanian RoRo ferry dispute took another turn yesterday after days of illegal action by workers angered by the dismissal of colleagues. Despite a Court injunction, protests had delayed the unloading of freight at Port Melbourne, including perishable farm produce and consignments of fish. The move by police came despite an earlier statement that they would not intervene in the dispute, the week-long disruption with the understandable outcry from innocent shippers who were caught up in it seems to have now changed the minds of the authorities.

The protests have continued despite an agreement being reached several days ago between the employers, stevedore group Qube, and the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA). Whilst Qube protested that normal procedures via arbitration through the auspices of the Fair Work Commission would evidence that the sacked men had refused to undertake tasks they were fully trained for and had undertaken many times previously, the dockers’ supporters maintained the matter was one of health and safety.

The protestors have caused delays at Port Melbourne’s Station Pier as we reported last week and costs now are said to have reached millions of dollars. According to local press reports union officials have ducked reporters and commented that the actions of the protestors were ‘community based’ and not those of the union. MUA National Secretary Paddy Crumlin, commented:

“QUBE needs to recognise that its workers are part of a community outside of work. It appears that the community acted because of concerns that had been simmering for several weeks after management sacked six workers, four of whom asked for additional training for work on a higher role, due to the safety concerns associated with the work.”

Photo: Station Pier has seen those prepared for battle before. This image taken during a visit by the British Navy’s battlecruisers HMS Repulse and HMS Hood, in 1925. Both were sunk sixteen years later. From the Museum Victoria collection.