DP World Industrial Action – Employee Roster Changes Announced
Significant Landside Delays & Costs:
Landside logistics operators in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Fremantle have struggled significantly this week in obtaining vehicle booking system slots to pick-up import containers and deliver export receivals from DP World’s Terminals, and have suffered from lengthy truck turnaround times and in some instances non-service of vehicles.
The efforts of DP World to recover from the crippling cyber-attack last weekend and to reopen landside operations have been welcomed.
But now it is taking far longer to recover from the backlog of containers combined with the continuing discharge of imports and receival of exports due to the ongoing industrial actions by DP World’s workforce and the maritime union as part of disputed Enterprise Agreement (EA) negotiations.
The flow-on landside impacts are the imposition of significant additional costs incurred by transport operators, frustrated importers not able to take delivery of their delayed import cargoes, and export containers missing vessel cut-offs and having cargoes rolled to subsequent voyages.
Exporters aren’t fulfilling their overseas supply contracts, and importers are faced with import containers potentially incurring storage fees for late pick-ups from DP World’s terminals despite poor terminal performance.
Insidiously, container shipping lines are indicating to importers that they will not provide container detention relief for the late return of the empty import containers, despite the delays being attributable to their contracted stevedore provider.
This is another clear example of why the ACCC should be authorised to develop mandatory guidelines on when the levying of container detention fees by shipping lines is “reasonable” and when it is not.
Transport operators are incurring the added expense of working additional night and weekend shifts just to try to get sufficient slots to meet the freight demand, and then finding that they end up not being able to service all of the slots due to the cascading effect of terminal delays.
The cost of these delays and added operational pressures are borne initially by the transport operators who either choose to pass on those costs to their customers in the form of waiting time charges or congestion surcharges, or absorb the costs to the substantial detriment of their operating margins.
The delays being incurred are not sustainable. They are costing landside operators collectively hundreds of thousands of dollars per week – a cost eventually borne by exporters, importers and consumers.
DP World Announces Changed Roster Arrangements:
In a move clearly designed to break the impasse with the maritime union on the stalled EA negotiations, DP World has announced today (16 November 2023) to their employees the implementation of roster changes across their four terminals in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Fremantle (under the terms of the existing EA).
Download from the link above a copy of the DP World statement on the roster changes.
DP World has described the changes as “adapting its roster system to meet dynamic shipping and berthing schedules.”
“This change aims to optimise workforce use and align with new trade patterns. The expected outcome includes increased operational efficiency and flexibility at terminals, as well as adjustments to employee remuneration.”
CTAA understands that in the EA negotiations, DP World has been seeking greater roster flexibility, particularly for night and weekend shifts, which presumably these roster changes will seek to address.
DP World’s letter to its employees also anticipates increased earnings for the vast majority of their workforce resulting from the roster changes, and also laments that their employees “take home pay” has been reduced by -30% on average due to the current strike action. They note that their employees last received a pay increase in October 2022.
We await the reaction of DP World’s employees and the maritime union to these roster changes and how they impact on the ongoing EA negotiations. Importantly when the roster changes are implemented, we wait to see if they will have a positive impact on landside terminal productivity and slot capacity availability.
Calls for Federal Industrial Relations Minister to Intervene to Terminate Industrial Action:
Shipping Australia, representing container shipping lines servicing Australian trades, has written to the Federal Industrial Relations Minister, Tony Burke, seeking the Minister’s intervention in the current DP World industrial dispute under Section 431 of the Fair Work Act 2009.
Section 431 of the Act gives the Federal Minister power to make a declaration, in writing, terminating protected industrial action … if the Minister is satisfied that (among other matters) … “the industrial action is threatening or could threaten to cause significant damage to the Australian economy or an important part of it.”
The Shipping Australia letter estimates that the current industrial actions could be causing up to $23 million per day in economic harm to Australia.
CTAA supports the calls from Shipping Australia for the Federal Minister to intervene.
Under the current provisions of the Fair Work Act, the maritime union is entitled to pursue protected industrial action through to June next year. CTAA believes that the current disruption levels to containerised trade through DP World’s terminals are unsustainable for such a lengthy period of time and will cause significant economic harm if they are allowed to continue.
From the above, you will note that the working week from DP World for transport has been cut from seven (7) days to two (2) days, and half days on weekends with all the bans and strikes in place.
This has led to the other Terminals (Patrick’s, VICT and Hutchinsons) are all experiencing high traffic volumes and lengthy delays as a result of the DP World situation. Some of the alternative terminals are also at full capacity at present.
Slots are being booked as early as possible, however many of those bookings are being cancelled by the terminal (often when a truck is already there) as they are unable to service the volume of bookings made, this is causing a backlog of thousands of containers nationally.
We have had staff working overtime and weekends to rebook slots and to move as many containers as possible, but despite all our efforts, shipping lines are not making any adjustments to equipment detention free time during this period, they are all advising that any additional detention charges will be passed on to importers and exporters.
The GPSM Transport Team are working exceptionally hard in trying to ensure that you, our clients, are not adversely affected by the situation, the team will continue to strive to achieve the earliest possible delivery times despite working under an extremely stressful and frustrating situation with little assistance from any outside parties.