Patrick terminals 'out of action' for a week

Maritime Union wage dispute disruption to start on Wednesday

By Rob McKay | May 23, 2011

Trucking operations, shipping companies, shipper firms and supply chains reliant on Patrick’s terminals will be collateral damage as the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA)
takes the next step in its wages battle, the stevedore says today.

Patrick confirmed it had received notification of further industrial action at all four of its container terminals, starting on Wednesday.

The disruption will run for seven days in Sydney, Melbourne and Fremantle with Brisbane impacted for six days.

The action in the form of bans and limitations will stop the movement of about 50 percent of Australia’s containerised trade, directly affecting 32 ships and 35,000 shipping containers, according to Patrick.

The union says Patrick has refused to negotiate on training and safety issues.

This year’s Patrick campaign began in earnest four weeks ago but comes at a time of increased militancy both on the waterfront and at sea, led by its Western Australian branch.

The branch, which is regarded by employers as being subject to little influence from national headquarters, appeared to overstep the mark at the end of April, with Fair Work Australia launching two prosecutions over actions against stevedore DP World in Fremantle and Broome Port Authority.

The knock-on effect of the latest MUA action will be felt by importers and exporters for months as vessels are significantly delayed and international schedules directly impacted, according to Patrick Director Paul Garaty.

"The impact of the bans will render us inoperative, and our Brisbane, Melbourne, Fremantle and Sydney terminals will grind to a halt," Garaty says.

"This will have a huge impact on Australian importers and exporters hurting everyone from small businesses awaiting deliveries to Australian farmers exporting their goods to market, and the transport industry who are reliant on container trade to make a living.

"These businesses have already borne the brunt of the MUA’s actions, including stoppages across our operations, over a month of illegal strike action at our Melbourne terminal and labour availability issues at our Sydney terminal which restrict the use of our cranes.

"We are again witnessing the actions of a union who are happy to hold the country to ransom in pursuit of its claims.

"The Union issued this action less than 24 hours after the company put an offer to their representatives.

"Given the timeframe it is unlikely the MUA even had time to put our offer to their members before announcing another round of action against us again demonstrating their lack of commitment to good faith bargaining or willingness to reach a genuine agreement.

"Despite the MUA suggesting it has made big concessions in reducing its claim to $32 million (a cost of $32,000 per employee) they are pursuing a wage outcome far in excess of community norms and are continuing to ignore our need for productivity offsets. We are not close to an agreement."

Patrick’s most recent offer includes a fout percent wage increase with an additional one percent offered if internationally recognised safety, productivity and efficiency targets are met to ensure that the Company remains competitive in a changed Australian marketplace. The Company has also offered improved pay and working conditions for its permanent part time employees and increased redundancy from 40 to 52 weeks for all employees.

Patrick says employees currently work on average 35 hours per week or 185 days per year for an average salary of $100,000.

It claims the union’s revised claim will cost the company $32,000 per employee without any change in productivity.

It put the cost of the claims over each of the three years are $32 million, $39 million and $50 million respectively.

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