A container ship is unloaded at Port Botany in Sydney.
Anthony Albanese has urged good faith talks to end a dispute disrupting the nation's busiest ports. Image by Dean Lewins/AAP PHOTOS
  • politics (general)

Albanese urges ‘good faith’ talks to end port dispute

January 16, 2024

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has urged “good faith” discussions to resolve a dispute disrupting the nation’s busiest ports.

Amid fears the battle between Australia’s second biggest port operator DP World and the Maritime Union could continue to disrupt imports and exports, Industrial Relations Minister Tony Burke has agreed to meet with the company on Thursday morning following calls from the stevedore. 

It’s estimated the protected industrial action, which has involved workers shutting down DP World’s terminals on certain days, has cost the economy tens of millions of dollars each week due to delays in loading and unloading shipping containers.

Mr Albanese said the company and the union should sit down to “sort this out”. 

DP World signage at Port Botany (file image)
 Business NSW has welcomed the industrial relations minister agreeing to meet with DP World. Image by Dean Lewins/AAP PHOTOS 

“That’s what I think is in the interests of both to occur,” he told 2SM radio on Tuesday.

“This is a company that of course is based in Dubai that’s made considerable profits and certainly there should be a mutually beneficial outcome, and I’d urge both parties to organise in good faith and to get this done.”

Business NSW executive Daniel Hunter welcomed the government’s meeting and hoped it wold reignite discussions between the bargaining parties.

“The government can compel both parties to come to a lasting resolution via arbitration,” he told Sky News on Tuesday.

“That needs to happen and it needs to happen now, because it’s really damaging to the economy and consumers.”

While Mr Hunter understood workers needed to be properly compensated as the cost of living increases, containers should not be trapped at terminals for months at a time as it would increase inflation and the cost of business.

Blake Tierney, senior director at DP World Oceania, said the company was engaging constructively in negotiations and was hopeful the union would return to the table.

“This is clearly an issue of national significance and we need a circuit-breaker so trade can go back to normal for the benefit of Australian consumers and businesses,” he said in a statement.

ACTU secretary Sally McManus (file image)
 ACTU secretary Sally McManus said DP World was “forcing the hand of workers”. Image by Mick Tsikas/AAP PHOTOS 

DP World would not comment on the details of a meeting between the parties on Monday “out of respect for the Fair Work Commission process”.

Both parties have agreed to a media blackout in an attempt to assist discussions.

The union claims DP World is continuing its attempts to slash penalty rates and remove key safety clauses.

The company has been accused of underpaying workers, forcing them to take annual leave, and failing to pay employees who work weekends and public holidays.

ACTU secretary Sally McManus said DP World was “forcing the hand of workers” and wanted the government to intervene and back the stevedore.

“The company is deliberately, in our view, not moving, because they want to whip up a crisis so they can get the government, or try to get the government to intervene so they don’t have to pay the workers more,” she told ABC TV.