Union Ends Three-Week Strike at Melbourne Terminal

The VICT terminal at Port of Melbourne (file image)

Published Dec 15, 2017 7:03 PM by The Maritime Executive

On Friday, the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) reached a deal with Victoria International Container Terminal in Melbourne for the partial reinstatement of a union member who was terminated in November, ending a three-week picket line that blocked the gates and trapped millions of dollars in cargo on the pier. 

The terminal said that it denied employee Richard Lunt access to future work because of the details of an alleged criminal record and his alleged inability to get a security clearance. The International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF) – a global union alliance that counts MUA among its members – denied that Lunt was ineligible and said that he obtained the required clearance certificate on December 8. 

However, under the terms of the deal struck Friday, he may not necessarily need the clearance: Lunt will receive wages, pending the outcome of a court case over his dismissial, but he will not be expected to enter the terminal. In return for the reinstatement of Lunt’s pay, MUA "expects that the ongoing community protest at Webb Dock will end some time [Friday]," said ITF director Paddy Crumlin. 

“Our employees, who played no part in the illegal picket, will be able to enter our site this afternoon,’’ said VICT CEO Anders Dommestrup. “We are currently entering the terminal to prepare it for full reopening as soon as possible and we will inform all our customers directly.” VICT is operated by International Container Terminal Services Inc. (ICTSI), a Philippines-based company that is the target of a global campaign by the ITF over alleged anti-union policies. 

The negotiated solution will also allow MUA to cease an alleged violation of a court order. The Victoria Supreme Court twice ordered that union members should maintain a minimum distance of 300 feet from the docks unless they were working, but the picket continued. MUA leaders said Thursday that they would remain in place despite the order and deal with a charge of contempt of court "as it comes."

That charge is likely to come: VICT said that it will pursue both damages and a contempt of court action against the MUA and individuals involved with the strike. The damage claim could be for as much as $75 million, VICT told the Sydney Morning Herald.