Container-trucks-lined-up-at-Port-Botany-ABC

ACCC orders stevedores to change unfair contracts

Three container stevedore companies have amended their contracts with land transport businesses after the ACCC raised concerns that certain terms in each of these agreements may be unfair contract terms.
DP World Australia, Hutchison Ports Australia and Victoria International Container Terminal (VICT) agreed, after the ACCC’s intervention, to remove or amend terms in their standard form contracts that the ACCC considered were likely to be considered ‘unfair’ within the meaning of the Australian Consumer Law.
DP World and Hutchison had contract terms that allowed a stevedore to unilaterally vary terms in the agreements without notice, including fees paid by the land transport operators.
DP World and Hutchison also had terms that limited their liability for loss or damage suffered by the transport businesses, while not offering the transport businesses the same protections. VICT’s contract had a term requiring transport businesses to indemnify VICT for loss or damage, with no reciprocal obligation on VICT.
DP World’s standard agreement also required the transport businesses to pay the stevedore’s legal costs and expenses, in circumstances where such payments would normally be determined by court order.
The three stevedores cooperated with the ACCC’s investigation and agreed to remove or amend the terms. Hutchison has made its commitments in a court enforceable undertaking and will also place a corrective notice on its website and put in place a compliance program.
Those contract terms which previously allowed the stevedore to amend the contract without notice have either been removed, or now require the stevedore to give 30 days’ notice of any changes, including for any price rises.
“Thousands of transport businesses, which have standard form agreements with DP World, Hutchison and VICT, stand to benefit from these changes,” ACCC Commissioner Sarah Court said.
“The handling of containers has a direct bearing on the cost of goods in Australia and the competitiveness of Australian exports, so it is crucial for businesses and consumers that the supply chain operates fairly and efficiently.”
The ACCC launched its investigation in early 2018 following concerns being raised about alleged unfair terms in contracts between container stevedores and land transport operators, such as rail and trucking businesses.
The ACCC’s 2018 Container Stevedore Monitoring Report noted the ACCC was assessing unfair contract terms within the industry. The ACCC has now concluded that assessment.
The court enforceable undertaking given by Hutchison can be found at Hutchison Ports Australia Pty Limited.

Hutchison to be hit with wharf strike

Workers employed by Hutchison Ports in Sydney and Brisbane have voted to commence broad-ranging industrial action, accusing the company of launching the most severe attack on waterfront conditions in a generation, the Maritime Union of Australia said.
The protected action ballot of Hutchison Ports workers from Port Botany and the Port of Brisbane, conducted by the Australian Electoral Commission, recorded 98.4 per cent support among union members for a series of rolling work stoppages, along with a range of other actions. The first round of industrial action, involving bans and limitations, will commence on Thursday 17 January.
Negotiations over a new workplace agreement covering Hutchison Ports workers in Sydney and Brisbane reached a stalemate, the MUA said, after the company “refused to back away from plans to slash wages and conditions, along with automating some roles and outsourcing other jobs”.
The Maritime Union of Australia said the company’s demands include: a 2.5 per cent cut to superannuation; reductions to sick and parental leave; cuts to redundancy and long service leave; removal of income protection; wage cuts of up to $10 per hour followed by a wage freeze; and reductions to safety standards, including the loss of full-time first aiders and removal of personal protective equipment.
MUA assistant national secretary Warren Smith said the attempt by this multi-national port operator “to slash the pay and conditions of Australian workers left them with no choice but to take industrial action.
“The world’s largest stevedore, the same company that sacked 97 workers by text message in 2015, is now telling its Australian workforce that it wants to slash their wages and conditions,” Mr Smith said.
“If Hutchison gets its way, waterfront workers would be left 26 per cent worse off in retirement based on the company’s planned cuts to their superannuation entitlements, while redundancy payments would be halved for the average worker, as would long service leave.
“Not content to attack wages and conditions, Hutchison Ports are going after the safety of their workers, with a push to remove the full-time first-aiders who provide potentially life-saving treatment in an emergency, along with taking away basic personal protective equipment.
“On top of that, they want to cut wages by up to $10 per hour, impose a 12 month wage freeze, with pay rises of just 1 per cent a year after that.
“Our members refuse to sit back and watch as four-decades of hard-won conditions are stripped away by a greedy multi-national whose only concern is maximising its own profits.
“We will not accept an agreement that rips us off and reduces our standard of living, and the MUA is committed to using every industrial and legal tool at our disposal in our fight to protect conditions and safety standards on the waterfront.
“The actions Hutchison Ports highlight exactly why the Australian union movement has launched the Change the Rules campaign, to challenge the actions of big corporations who are increasingly using the broken workplace laws to attack the conditions of working people.”
 

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