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Fremantle Ports Warns 48-Hour Strike Will Affect Retailers

Fremantle Ports, which operates the harbor servicing Western Australian state capital Perth, said a planned 48-hour strike from tomorrow may affect A$144 million ($144 million) worth of trade.

About 34 shipping movements, including container ships, general cargo vessels and bulk commodity carriers, will be affected should the strike proceed from 5 a.m. tomorrow to 5 a.m. Dec. 3, Perth time, the company said in an e-mailed statement. Fremantle Ports handles A$26 billion in trade a year, it said.

“A 48-hour stoppage would be a major blow for retailers depending on timely pre-Christmas deliveries of imported goods for department stores and supermarkets,” Chief Executive Officer Chris Leatt-Hayter said in the statement. “It would be a major concern, also, for exporters operating in highly competitive markets.”

Stoppages in Australia have increased since then-Employment Minister Julia Gillard led passage of the Fair Work Act two years ago. Days lost to industrial disputes tripled in the three months to June 30, according to government data, as unions sought pay rises and job-security measures amid higher living costs.

Fremantle Ports operates Fremantle harbor, which handles almost all container trade for Western Australia, livestock exports and general cargo imports, and Kwinana, which processes bulk-commodity exports including grain, petroleum, liquid petroleum gas, alumina, mineral sands, fertilizers and coal.

Labor Regulator

Western Australian Minister for Transport Troy Buswell sent a letter to Prime Minister Gillard yesterday asking her to intervene to suspend the Maritime Union of Australia action through Fair Work Australia, the nation’s labor regulator.

Fremantle Ports’ offer of increasing wages 4.75 percent annually over three years has been rejected by unionists, according to a copy of the letter e-mailed to Bloomberg News by the transport department.

Will Tracey, a spokesman for Maritime Union of Australia, didn’t immediately respond to a voicemail request for comment.

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