Calls for Melbourne port operator inquiry

Senator Glenn Sterle has called for an inquiry into the conduct of Port of Melbourne operator ICTSI. (AAP)

An international port operator has been accused of intimidation and exploitation with unions and a federal senator demanding an investigation.

A federal senator is backing union allegations that an international company contracted to operate Port of Melbourne's Webb Dock is guilty of bullying and intimidating local workers.

CFMEU president Paddy Crumlin presented a report produced by the International Transport Workers' Federation said to support the claim to a group of Labor MPs at the Victorian parliament on Thursday.

He and West Australian ALP Senator Glenn Sterle say there should be an investigation by state and federal governments into how International Container Terminal Services Inc (ICTSI) ever won a state government contract to operate the Webb Dock facility.

They allege the company has a global track record of exploitation.

Speaking to AAP, Senator Sterle said the port operator's ill-treatment of workers was concerning.

"How the hell did this mob get in there?" he said.

"There are no ethics with this company. I want to know, was there any damn due diligence done?"

The contract was awarded by David Hodgett, who was Victorian ports minister in the previous Liberal National government.

The report claims workers in Melbourne have been bullied and intimidated.

"We're all too scared to talk," a worker is quoted saying.

The report claims a history of widespread underpayment of ICTSI workers, negligence with safety standards and intimidation and even sacking of workers if they join a union.

Case studies include a worker in Indonesia who struggles to pay rent with his wage and a worker at a Madagascan port who cannot afford to send his children to school.

Senator Sterle said he wanted to know if Australian national intelligence agencies had been involved when the port operator was approved.

"All the illegal stuff in this nation either comes in by plane or boat," he said.

Senator Sterle was especially disturbed by comments made by the company's president Enrique Razon, who is a billionaire and the Philippines' third richest person.

"If we focus on things like governance and transparency we are still not going to get what we need to get done," Mr Razon is quoted saying.

"Is this the sort of person that we want to lease valuable infrastructure to?" Senator Sterle said.

Melbourne port workers have had an acrimonious relationship with the international port operator for sometime, peaking in a weeks-long blockade against the company in December 2017 over the sacking of a worker.

The company remains engaged in ongoing legal proceedings against the Maritime Workers' Union over loss of earnings.

AAP is yet to make contact with Mr Hodgett.

Both ICTSI and the current Labor government told AAP they did not wish to comment.

ICTSI is rumoured to be looking to expand develop the outer harbour at Freemantle, WA, an MUA spokesperson said.

Stay up to date with SBS NEWS

  • App
  • Subscribe
  • Follow
  • Listen
  • Watch