Protest shuts down Port of Melbourne

December 17, 2015

Empty container drivers brought the Port of Melbourne to a halt this afternoon after withdrawing their labour in a protest against poor pay and conditions and safety concerns.

Members, who haul empty shipping containers back into the port for the shipping lines to take back overseas or interstate, withdrew their labour for an hour.

The majority of empty container workers are owner-drivers employed as contractors on a piece and load rate basis which leaves most barely able to cover costs.

To compound the issues drivers can be held up for hours at a time due to lengthening delays on the land side infrastructure freight process due to increases in import and export volumes.

A connected issue to this inefficiency is an increasing pressure on drivers who can become fatigued after working long hours.

This leads to concerns some drivers have about vehicle reliability and maintenance. The TWU believes the poor payment rates are directly impacting on safety in the port and wharf sectors with drivers fatigued after working long hours.

TWU organiser Mem Suleyman said the industry is on its hands and knees with this major crisis. 

“Going into the Christmas period these drivers couldn’t be in a worse position to support their families,” Mem said. 

“Keeping up with maintaining these trucks on poverty line wages is resulting in unsafe trucks, which means unsafe roads for our public, this is a major concern I share particularly with drivers encouraged to work excessive hours.   

“Currently, the drivers are at a point where they are considering completely withdrawing their labour as the cost of providing the service is merely unsustainable.

“We will look to work with all parties to facilitate a change in the industry.”

The Union is calling on the shipping container agents, who hire owner-drivers, to agree to provide secure contracts and cartage rates.

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