Patrick Terminals tries to shut down wharf strikes as PM lashes maritime union | Industrial relations

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Patrick Terminals has launched a bid to terminate maritime union strikes across Australia that have been blamed for delays at Sydney’s Port Botany.

After the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) notified the stevedores it intended to strike for 24 hours in Brisbane and Port Botany on Friday, the company hit back with an application to the Fair Work Commission to terminate its industrial action.

The aggressive response follows seven months of bargaining over a new pay deal in which the MUA has asked for 6% pay rises for four years.

The MUA reached in-principle agreement with DP World on Friday, but at Patrick the dispute is heating up, with the prime minister, Scott Morrison, weighing in to accuse the union of holding Australia’s imports and exports to ransom.

Patrick has asked the federal government to intervene in the case, after the industrial relations minister, Christian Porter, said the action was “of considerable concern” to the government.

Porter told Guardian Australia on Monday the government “is considering whether to intervene in support of Patrick’s application, should it be deemed necessary to protect the broader economy from further harm”.

“This is not the time to be seeking to leverage Covid-caused weakness in critical supply chains for bargaining leverage in what could be very damaging industrial action for our entire country.”

The MUA has been pursuing its claims at terminals in Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne and Fremantle with a range of industrial action, including bans on overtime and workers acting in more senior positions.

Patrick blames the MUA for delays of more than 18 days for a berth in Sydney, compared with nine in Melbourne and Brisbane.

But the MUA national secretary, Paddy Crumlin, angrily rejected claims that “limited, legal forms of industrial action” – including a single four-hour stoppage at Port Botany – were capable of causing the delays.

Patrick’s application to the Fair Work Commission argues the industrial action is causing “significant damage to the Australian economy or an important part of it” – including stevedoring, agriculture and retail trade.

It estimated that about $165.6m of imports and $66.9m of exports a day was disrupted and “at least 5%” of the value of that trade was wiped out by delays.

The company also cited “potential disruption to the import of essential supplies”, despite the fact the MUA offered to help ensure medical supplies were not affected by industrial action.

Patrick submitted the MUA “shows no sign of compromising” and asked the commission to pursue the nuclear option of terminating strikes because it could have “no confidence” that merely suspending industrial action would help reach a deal.

Patrick’s chief executive, Michael Jovicic, said: “Port Botany is running three weeks behind schedule and our Melbourne terminal more than a week.

“We now have close to 90,000 containers being held up and there’s no end in sight. Frankly, enough is enough.”

On Saturday Morrison also accused the MUA of “holding the country to ransom” and delaying farm exports.

“At a time when we are in a Covid national recession, the worst elements of the union movement and the militancy of the MUA is on display,” he told the South Australian Liberal conference.

Source: The Guardian
Keyword: Patrick Terminals tries to shut down wharf strikes as PM lashes maritime union | Industrial relations

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