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Industrial relations on the waterfront

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"Stevedoring continues to be one of the major problem areas in Industrial Relations. For almost a year it has been at the centre of the Government's intense consideration of waterfront problems."

Mr Street was addressing the 25th Conference of the Association of Australian Port and Marine Authorities on 27 October 1976. .

"While industrial relations on the waterfront is not good, advances have been made. Statistics relating to loss of time due to stoppages and disputes show that in the late 1950s it was common for 15 to 20 percent of the total working days lost in all Australian industries to be related to steve­ doring services. The picture has changed somewhat. In recent years time lost in stevedoring services due to disputes has represented somewhere between 1 and 2 percent of total time lost in all industries. .

The Minister continued, "That does not mean that there can be any room for complacency, nor that I am in. any way satisfied with the present state of industrial relations on the waterfront, but never­ theless it is important to acknowledge the realities of history if we are now going to contend with the realities of the future.

"I see it as a reasonable requirement that the parties in the industry should evolve a framework within which the following positive steps can be taken:

• The reduction of the existing workforce level to a stage where the port strengths reflect a base figure that will effectively satisfy labour needs;

• provision of genuinely effective means of adding labour to and removing it from the workforce;

• creation of circumstances to allow allocation and transfer of labour between stevedores;

• development of special arrangements such as supplementary labour units to meet the fluctuating labour requirements of the ports;

• improved industrial relations procedures — perhaps more importantly the continuing use of the procedures that presently exist but which appear to be used too infrequently;

• methods whereby the interests of smaller ports are protected — where the industry, as a whole does not subjugate the needs of these ports to those of the major ports;

• satisfactory funding arrangements — to remove the existing deficit of the ASIA Bind ensure that the continuing financial affairs of the industry are commercially responsible; and

o consultative arrangements to allow all relevant interests to have an effective voice in the industry's affairs.


" It is abundantly clear however, that in any circumstances steps need to be taken now to significantly reduce the labour force in the Eastern States. Idle time payments made by the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority are currently running at the incredible level of $20m per annum. The workforce has to be significantly reduced to a level which is more consistent with the efficiency of waterfront operations. The current surplus of labour, and the excessive

impact this has on costs, cannot be allowed to continue. We acted earlier this year to encourage some 300 waterside workers to leave the industry. Further action has to be taken and we are moving on this now.

"The Government is concerned to bring a measure of responsibility into the broader spectrum of waterfront operations, and of course its approach to and final attitude on the more limited stevedoring question will form part of oiir wider considerations.

"The Government will continue to give attention to and seek to influence events and attitudes in the waterfront area. However, the Government alone cannot provide solutions. We want to see the industry based on a footing which encourages cost restraint, enables flexible and practicable operational arrangements and adopts procedures that will lead to improved industrial relations.

"This I consider should be the aim of all responsible interests in the industry."

75/76 27-10-1976