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Industrial action at fully automated container terminal

The Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) has given notice of a four-hour stoppage at Australia’s first fully automated container terminal, the Victoria International Container Terminal (VICT), on Tuesday 16 February from 4-8pm.

This follows the union’s calls for the automated terminal to comply with the same industry standards that apply to manually operated terminals.

VICT is the only Port of Melbourne stevedore that operates outside the West Gate Bridge, enabling it to berth the larger ships now serving the Port of Melbourne. According to VICT, this proposed industrial action will significantly impact the port and the Victorian economy.

The MUA is demanding wage increases equivalent to between 5.8% to 11% each year over three years for certain roles, with overtime and penalty rates to rise by 50% to 100% from current rates.

In a statement, VICT said this industrial action would cause massive disruptions. “This would see Australia’s most modern terminal saddled with inappropriate working arrangements with its efficiencies seriously compromised and its potential to achieve profitability put at risk.

“The MUA roster would require an additional panel of employees to make the operation viable, requiring a 25% increase in labour numbers, 11.4% fewer hours for everyone, plus a wage increase of up to 20%.

“If fully accepted, the MUA claims will cause the total cost of employment at VICT to rise by 117% or more than $119.1 million over the four years.”

Commenting on the proposed union action, CEO of VICT Tim Vancampen said, “The maritime unions are attempting to steer the waterfront firmly back to the past, effectively by ignoring the efficiencies of automation and hobbling VICT with outdated ways of working and inapplicable wages and benefits.

“As the first fully automated terminal in Australia we never expected to be popular with traditional waterside unions, but we couldn’t have anticipated such unrealistic demands. We’ve been in negotiations for months, however the MUA is unwilling to consider reasonable differences in VICT’s operation.

“VICT operates Australia’s first and only fully automated terminal. Our employees are not traditional waterside labourers, they’re typically computer operators and maintenance engineers. Most operating roles and standards that are now unique to the industry are completely foreign to the MUA’s experience and understanding.”

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