Docks dispute damages milk supplies

By Alana Christensen on December 19, 2017
  • Docks dispute damages milk supplies

    Frustrated . . . Kyvalley Dairy director Wayne Mulcahy says a blockade at a Melbourne dock has cost the company tens of thousands of dollars.

A union blockade at a Melbourne dock is costing Kyabram’s Kyvalley Dairy Group more than $60000 as 60000 litres of milk was left to spoil in the scorching sun.

Three containers of refrigerated milk have been sitting on the docks for three weeks as an illegal picket line continues to block access to Victoria International Container Terminal’s Webb Dock site.

Unions involved in the dispute began dismantling the picket last Friday.

Picketing started on November 27 over a dispute involving a Maritime Union of Australia worker, who was sacked after failing a security check.

The blockade has been ruled illegal by the Victorian Supreme Court.

A Murray Goulburn spokesperson confirmed that as a result of the industrial action the company was facing some minor operational issues and was ‘‘managing this process accordingly’’.

Kyvalley Dairy director Wayne Mulcahy said it had been a frustrating experience.

‘‘What it has meant is that three containers of milk, about 60000 litres that was sold to a customer in Malaysia, couldn’t be delivered to them, and they’re very disappointed and upset with us. It damages our reputation as a reliable supplier,’’ he said.

‘‘It normally takes only a few days (of waiting at the docks), then they’re loaded on to a ship and off to South-East Asia ... The milk is near the end of its life at this time.’’

Although it had given up on the possibility of exporting the milk, Mr Mulcahy said the company was still unable to retrieve the containers and return the milk to Kyabram to be disposed of before the ‘‘milk turns to cheese’’.

‘‘We’re seeing ourselves as collateral damage in a dispute. We’re the ones that have lost a sale and are wearing a lot of cost, lost all the milk, plus all the costs to get to the dock and wharf costs and container hiring costs,’’ he said.

‘‘It’s been a very expensive exercise.’’

The company has been in contact with the offices of Agriculture Minister Jaala Pulford, Premier Daniel Andrews and Shadow Agriculture Minister Peter Walsh in an attempt to retrieve their containers.

‘‘The feedback we got (from Ms Pulford and Mr Andrews) was that while they had sympathy and understanding, they weren’t prepared to take any action and hoped the dispute was resolved ... they really couldn’t offer us any real help,’’ he said.

Attempts from Mr Walsh were also unsuccessful.

A government spokesperson said it had urged all parties to negotiate an end to this matter in good faith.

‘‘The Supreme Court has considered the matter and we expect all parties to abide by its rulings. The government has also repeatedly offered to bring the parties together to help them resolve this dispute including an offer to bring in Industrial Relations Victoria as a mediator,’’ a government spokesperson said.

The decision to end the lengthy blockade came on Friday with a deal struck between the Maritime Union of Australia and the Victoria International Container Terminal.

Parties agreed to reinstate a worker who was refused security clearance to work at the Webb Dock.

By Alana Christensen on December 19, 2017
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