MUA’s cargo crisis chokehold must be stopped

04 Nov 2021 |

The Maritime Union’s push to paralyse Australia’s ports is risking the nation’s economic recovery amid intensified international supply chain disruptions.  Released today, a report from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission highlights that rolling industrial action has destabilised the operation of Australian stevedores over the past decade.

“With our ports system already on the ropes, the MUA’s opportunistic industrial action is driving up the costs for business which will be reflected in higher prices for all Australians,” ACCI chief executive Andrew McKellar said.

“Small businesses, their workers and consumers, who have weathered significant losses through lockdowns and restrictions, are now being slugged with increased costs and risks to supply as our ports are held to ransom.

“Ship wait times have blown out at Port Botany due to industrial action with average idle hours increased from 11.9 hours before the pandemic to 21.2 hours. Shipping lines are now skipping the port completely because congestion is becoming so bad.

“The industrial action we are seeing in our ports isn’t about the money.  Indeed, the existing agreement in Sydney means waterfront workers are already paid on average $172,000 a year for just 200 days of work.

“The reality is that the MUA is opportunistically ramping up pressure to maintain their grip over port operations, recruiting their family and friends, while they trash any measures for a more flexible and responsive workforce.

“With more strikes planned for this month, the Maritime Union’s chokehold on Australian stevedores must be stopped.

“If we want to maximise our post-pandemic recovery, ending the inefficiencies of our stevedore operations must be a fundamental priority.  With Australian exporters already struggling to meet their contractual obligations, Australian exporters will struggle to compete in overseas markets if we don’t end the strain that industrial action is placing on our ports.

The ACCC report also identified ongoing operational concerns that have diminished supply chain efficiency.

“The legislative soup of complex regulation, overlapping agency administration and undue red tape governing our ports has curbed their productivity.  If our ports aren’t internationally competitive, our post-pandemic recovery is at risk,” Mr McKellar added.

“With over 30 agencies and 200 legislative mechanisms governing the operation of international trade, it is no wonder that we have some of the most sluggish ports in the world.  It is vital that Federal and state governments reform Australia’s international trade regime to streamline these constraints.

“Port privatisations have also produced near monopoly conditions. The freight and logistics systems that move goods to and from the ports are similarly constrained.  Governments must ensure that a viable system is maintained to ensure Australian exports remain competitive in international markets.

“It is crucial that Australia is an efficient and attractive place to do business. Reforming our ports and the regulatory systems that constrain them will be instrumental in driving our post-pandemic recovery

Jack Quail

Media Officer

P  |  0498 181 207

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