Incredibly, the Australian martime unions (MUA) have decided that it is an opportune time, amidst economic carnage, to hold 24 hour strikes in key Australian ports of Brisbane and Sydney.
Shipping lines, already under significant supply-chain constraint due to global system breakdowns have reacted furiously.
Maersk, the world’s largest shipping line, has stopped imports arriving in Sydney, a strong response to the wharfie union’s industrial campaign.
Maersk contacted importers and freight handlers on Thursday to advise it had made the “difficult decision” to no longer take cargo bookings to Sydney from Asia, India, the Middle East, Africa and Europe for at least the next two weeks due to disruption and “significant delays” from bans and go-slows.
The militant unions have made conditions so unbearable for global trade, that the world’s largest lines are simply abandoning service to key Australian ports.
The Australian economy is suffering significantly, along with others around the world, due mainly to the economic devastation caused by COVID-19 restrictions, and the powerful Maritime Union of Australia has dialled up their industrial actions to 11, at precisely the time that Australian businesses cannot afford it. The Prime Minister has loudly rebuked the militant union, and set the stage for further escalation.
Scott Morrison has accused maritime workers of “extortionate” pay claims, demanding their union ditch industrial action or face federal intervention.
On Tuesday Morrison ratcheted up the pressure on the Maritime Union of Australia by refusing to rule out sending in the military if required to settle the dispute at Patrick Terminals.
For international readers who may not be aware of the Australian industrial relations landscape, we would suggest a little trip back in time, to 1998. Patrick Stevedores, the same company at the forefront of this industrial calamity, went nuclear in addressing the dispute with the unionised work-force. They were roundly applauded by the conservative and business-minded element of society, and lambasted as criminals by the left. The courts sided with the unions, and found that the company had deliberately restructured their corporate structure with the sole intent to dismiss their unionised workers
As a pretext to our historical sojourn, its important to know that the CFMEU and MUA are effectively the modern-day Australian version of the Teamsters. Some would argue that the current Australian version are less opaque about their criminality, although this publication certainly doesn’t support that position.
The current circumstances are unique in their seriousness. The unions are acutely aware of the significant pressure on all Australian businesses, yet they have seemingly, accoirding to Patricks and several industry groups, used the current economic carnage as leverage to further crater the economy.
One executive from a leading freight forwarder, who did not want to be named, said the situation was “a disaster”.
“I’ve been operating since the 1980s – it’s the worst I’ve seen it.”
Reports from Victoria’s construction sites, ruled by the CFMEU, suggest the levels of black-mail, strong-arming and stand-over tactics (all in the name of worker protection, of course) have escalated to levels not seen since the bad old days of the 80’s. The increasing militancy of the Australian unions is cause for significant concern, and the conservative Liberal/National government is beginning to inject themselves into the melee.
We reported previously, continued disruption to the critical port infrastructure will magnify already diabolical economic conditions and pressure the Australian Dollar. Freight lines are set to ratchet up freight-rates into Australia, seriously hurting importers who are already suffering supply chain constraints and lackluster demand.
Exporters are also at the mercy of the unions, with orders for gargantuan volumes of Australian produce being delayed by weeks, forcing international customers to purchase from alternate suppliers.
As the Federal government becomes increasingly agitated at the current situation, and with business groups screaming, the Prime Minister has left the option, albeit unlikely, for troops to be used in the event of continued deadlock.
This is a remote and unlikely scenario, especially given that the Federal government has remained relatively silent as the State of Victoria remains locked-down under controls more draconian that any other city on planet earth. It seems that talk of military intervention to open a port is reasonable, but assistance to a demolished Australian State is ‘par for the course’ when 10 people have caught a cold.
Chart of the Day
Union ‘attempting to hold the economy to ransom’ in wharf workers pay dispute