Victoria - Rail strikes narrowly miss citrus transport season
A Mildura-based export and packing company says it appears to have escaped last week's rail strike unaffected.
The dispute between unions and rail company Pacific National over working and pay conditions escalated, with unions first imposing a 48-hour strike and the company responding by locking out employees for the rest of the week. This meant no freight services ran in Victoria last week.
ABC News reported that the grain industry, and some other produce transport companies were severely affected, and had to find alternative measures to get stock to export ports and markets. Fortunately for the Mildura Fruit Company, the action occurred outside its season.
"Our export season, or when we use the train, would still be about 10 days away," MFC Sales Manager Marcus Scott said. "Obviously it has not affected us at present, but we're hoping it (the industrial action) disappears by the time we start."
The company ships around 80 per cent of its citrus produce by rail, and Mr Scott says finding alternatives by road will not only be expensive, but a major inconvenience. However, the company remains hopeful the dispute will not affect its shipments.
"The guys we use, Iron Horse, have been keeping us all in the loop," Mr Scott said. "But just like the rest of us, they don't really know from day to day. We will have to use alternative means, taking it all down by road, but that's not ideal. We really need to get back on the rail. But we are still a couple of weeks away from loading and, touch wood, it will be finished by then. I'm sure it can't keep going."
Rail workers returned to work Monday, with negotiations continuing between unions and Pacific National. But at this stage there is no guarantee that there will not be any further industrial action in the future.
For more information:
Marcus Scott, Mildura Fruit Company
Publication date: 5/8/2017
Author: Matthew Russell