Court Grants DP World Australia Injunction against Industrial Action at Its Terminals

The Federal Court of Australia has issued an interim interlocutory injunction halting industrial action at container terminals of DP World Australia announced back in January.

The court order prevents more than 1800 workers employed at the stevedore’s terminals in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, and Fremantle from taking any form of legally protected industrial action until March 13, 2020.

DP World Australia sought the injunction against industrial action coordinated by the Construction Forestry Maritime Mining Energy Union (CFMMEU), saying that at least one of the union’s claims in enterprise bargaining was not permitted under the Fair Work Act 2009.

DP World Australia (DPWA) Chief Operating Officer Andrew Adam said the order meant it was business as usual at the terminals and that there would be no disruption to normal services.

“In granting the interim injunction, the Federal Court of Australia determined the CFMMEU has a case to answer on its decision to press for claims that fail to comply with Australian workplace laws,” DPWA said.

Adam added that the statement by the union over local worker rights is another attempt to “distract CFMMEU members’ attention from its mismanagement of bargaining for new enterprise agreements at DPWA’s terminals around Australia.”

The interim interlocutory injunction will remain in effect until the final determination of the case, or until alternate orders are made.

The final hearing is scheduled in mid-March.

Wharfies were outraged by the court decision, describing it as an attack on the fundamental democratic rights of all Australian workers.

The Maritime Union of Australia said the decision should send a shudder down the spine of all working Australians, with the Federal Court “entrenching the power of foreign and local corporations and undermining the ability of workers to have any chance of standing up against workplace greed, inequality and for justice in the workplace.”

MUA Assistant National Secretary Warren Smith said the Federal Court decision was just the latest in a long list of aggressive moves by DP World aimed at forcing workers to accept management’s demands for a new workplace agreement.

“This injunction doesn’t just prevent wharfies from taking legally protected industrial action, it is an alarming attack on democratic rights that will give companies open slather to strip all Australian workers of long held workplace conditions, which will effectively mean reduced standards of living for all,” Smith said.

“In the last year, DP World management have launched unlawful and aggressive attacks on workers’ rights, cancelling approved holidays, attempting to strip away social benefits such as income protection, sacking workers, docking pay, preventing workers from meeting with their union representatives, cancelling Christmas bonuses, and threatening the mass termination of 10 per cent of the workforce.

“Our members don’t like corporate thuggery and they won’t back down to intimidation. They are willing to take the necessary steps are necessary to defend their hard-won rights and conditions from this company and win new protections for themselves and their families.”

Negotiations on a new workplace agreement between the union and DP World have been ongoing for more than 15 months. The previous agreement expired 12 months ago and it is hard to predict when a new agreement might be reached having given the recent escalation of the dispute.

The latest call to industrial action followed a series of coordinated stoppages that shut DP World container terminals for between 48 and 96 hours in 2019, involving more than 1800 wharfies in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, and Fremantle.

MUA members said earlier that they want to finalize the new workplace agreement but need assurances that their jobs would be secure and vital workplace conditions would be maintained. As explained, wharfies want their jobs to protected against outsourcing, automation, cuts to conditions such as income protection and in support of domestic violence provisions in the new agreement.