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Published: 19 Jun 2023
MARITIME UNION OF AUSTRALIA
19 JUNE 2023
MUA raises concerns about mental health and wellbeing at SeaRoad Stevedores
The Maritime Union of Victoria Branch has sounded the alarm about a worsening situation at SeaRoad Stevedores in the Port of Melbourne and called on the company’s senior leadership to intervene to restore a healthy, respectful and productive workplace environment.
SeaRoad Stevedores provide waterside and logistical services to the SeaRoad vessels that operate between Melbourne and Tasmania. It is owned by Tasmanian businessman Chas Kelly, a lifelong titan of the transport and logistics sector with an entry on the National Road Transport Museum’s Wall of Fame.
In recent meetings with the Union, middle management has downplayed the problem of mental health and wellbeing for stevedoring workers at SeaRoad, refused to facilitate peer support amongst workers, and rebuffed efforts by the Union to engage with the company to improve workplace culture and foster healthier relationships between managers and their employees.
“We have repeatedly sought cooperation and good faith from SeaRoad Stevedores's middle managers to improve an increasingly difficult workplace so that all of our members can go to work without worrying about bullying, harassment or mistreatment, but management would rather blame the workforce than work with us to improve things,” said the MUA Victorian Branch Assistant Secretary, Bob Patchett.
“Many of SeaRoad Stevedores’ workers are on edge about the attitude from management throughout this episode, but worse, the relationship has been further damaged by a dismissive response to our genuine efforts to engage in good faith and make improvements,” Patchett added.
There are a number of examples of poor workplace culture at SeaRoad Stevedores, and the company appears completely unable to respond effectively to social and mental health challenges within the organisation in line with their legal and ethical obligations to provide a safe workplace. Last year, instead of effectively mediating a dispute between co-workers, the company reportedly issued all workers with a Final Written Warning on RUOK Day, threatening them with dismissal.
“The Union is disappointed but not surprised by the approach taken by SeaRoad Stevedores. Rather than work with us, the company has resorted to intimidating their workforce,” Bob Patchett said. “Instead of trying to smother the various challenges which arise in any workplace, managers need to work with their employees to provide a safe and productive environment for everybody,” Patchett said.
The Union is also concerned that previous investigations by the company failed to seriously engage with the significant issues that workers are facing at the organisation.
“A fresh, independent and arm’s length process must be led by an external facilitator to improve the workplace culture at SeaRoad Stevedores, and it must take in to account the testimony and contributions of all employees. We don’t need another investigation guided by managers with their own skin in the game,” said Mr Patchett.