Recently, the Chief Executive of the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI), Andrew McKellar, gave a speech to the National Press Club of Australia in which he singled out the Maritime Union of Australia as a drag on productivity in Australia. Although I am no friend of the MUA (I was a manager at Patrick Stevedores during the 1998 Waterfront Dispute), I feel that his remarks on productivity in Australian ports only tell part of the story. story.
The figures quoted by Mr. McKellar are misleading. While Australia’s ports are not world beaters, we are not at the bottom of the World Bank rankings, as Mr McKellar said. After a careful review of the World Bank report, which I have undertaken here, our ports rank in the middle of the table when comparing like for like. Mr McKellar also mentions the issue of a “family and friends” style clause in the Hutchinson Ports company agreement, where 70% of new hires must come from a union list of names. This is a reflection of the negotiating skills of Hutchison Ports and the MUA, and no such clause is evident in other tie-up agreements.
I agree with Mr. McKellar’s comment about poorly conducted port privatizations that have produced near-monopoly conditions that stifle competition. What Mr McKellar did not mention is that last year shipping companies made a combined profit of $190 billion and are expected to reach $300 billion this year, according to the shipping consultancy. maritime Drewry. Part of this is due to Australian importers and exporters who have seen freight rates and shipping costs increase by more than 300% in recent years. Alphaliner research also indicates that the top 10 shipping lines now control nearly 85% of the global market due to consolidations and mergers, leading to less competition.
Earlier this year, the previous government commissioned the Productivity Commission to investigate Australia’s maritime logistics systems. The draft report was due to be released in June, however, due to the change in government, I suspect the report is currently gathering dust on the shelves and is unlikely to be released before the “Summit on jobs and skills” in September.
Hopefully the “Jobs and Skills Summit” and the research conducted by the Productivity Commission will lead to meaningful outcomes leading to smooth discussions between employer groups and unions and improved overall productivity. from Australia.
Pierre van Duyn,
Marine Logistics Expert, Deakin University