Patrick negotiators at fault: Crumlin

MUA National Secretary Paddy Crumlin labels Patrick negotiators incompetent as stoppages break out on the wharves

By Anna Game-Lopata | May 2, 2011

Stevedoring company Patrick confirms the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) took 24-hour strike action at its three major Australian ports on the weekend, including Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne.

According to Patrick, the stoppages, including a further strike scheduled for today at Fremantle, affected 15 ships carrying a total of 17,797 containers.

Patrick Director Paul Garaty says while he was extremely disappointed by the MUA’s action, the company remains willing to negotiate.

A meeting with Fair Work Australia on Friday sought a more effective basis for progressing the negotiations, but was unable to prevent MUA action over the weekend.

"It’s unfortunate that hundreds of Australian exporters and importers including small businesses waiting for deliveries will bear the brunt of the MUA’s actions," Garaty says.

"We will continue to seek to negotiate through the Fair Work Australia process, which is the proper way to handle this dispute, not by strikes which disadvantage Australians."

However MUA National Secretary Paddy Crumlin says the failure is in Patrick's national negotiating team.

"The negotiators are frankly inexperienced and incompetently following a flawed strategy," he says.

"The MUA wants to get to an outcome, we want to fix it, not just dance about with excuses."

While Patrick says the MUA’s pay claims are excessive, Crumlin argues the main issues on the union’s agenda now are safety and training.

"We’ve come to the party, reduced our pay demands and we’re willing to talk about productivity," Crumlin says.

"In terms of the bonus issue, Patrick wants bonuses to only be available to a select few workers. We argue bonuses should be available to 98 percent of them."

"After nine months of negotiations and conciliation, we don’t think Patrick is negotiating in good faith.

"We’re almost there, but Patrick refuses to discuss the real issues."

Crumlin says four meetings were cancelled last week on the basis that the MUA would not provide an unequivocal commitment not to strike, which it wasn’t prepared to do.

"We took an undertaking not to strike for two weeks following the last conciliation meeting at Fair Work Australia, but we’re no closer to resolving the core issues."

"We see industrial action as our only option."

Crumlin claims the action taken is "limited", and that the Commission found its position legally legitimate.

"The four ships that have been affected were diverted. This is a short term hiccup, not an attempt to attack Patrick. It is a normal part of the industrial process.

Patrick says it has fully complied with all commitments made within FWA and will continue to meet with the MUA this week in Fremantle and Brisbane in a bid to achieve a fair and sustainable outcome for both parties based on productivity improvements.

According to Patrick, MUA demands include a 6 per cent wage increase?each year for the life of the three-year agreement, a 4 per cent increase in superannuation from 9 to 13 per cent and 1 per cent income protection.

The MUA wants six weeks annual?leave and long-service leave increased to 13 weeks after 10?years.

It wants an extra worker for each shift as a safety facilitator, eight-man minimum per gang and payout of sick leave at the salary rather than the graded rate.

Patrick claims the total cost will be $36 million each year in the first two years of the agreement, rising to $45 million in the final year.

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