Trucking feels the pain from Patrick strike

Trucking industry prepares for painful fallout from the Maritime Union’s decision to wage strikes against stevedore Patrick

Trucking feels the pain from Patrick strike
Trucking feels the pain from Patrick strike
By Brad Gardner | May 25, 2011

The trucking industry is bracing for a financially painful fallout from the Maritime Union Australia’s (MUA) decision bring stevedore Patrick to a halt.

Ignoring a last-minute plea from Patrick, the MUA has forged ahead with industrial action in a bid to secure better pay and conditions under a new enterprise bargaining agreement.

Strikes will run for six days in Brisbane and for seven days in Sydney and Fremantle, which Patrick estimates will directly affect 27,950 containers. Action at the Port of Melbourne was called off.

Johnston’s Transport General Manager Mike Moylan says transport operators will incur substantial costs due to a lack of work.

Operators will also face scheduling headaches and higher wage bills, with Moylan saying drivers will need to work overtime and on weekends to clear a backlog of tasks once industrial action ends.

"There is a cost. There’s a disruption. We’ve got a fleet of trucks doing about half a day’s work," says Moylan, who also chairs the NSW Australian Trucking Association’s container section sub-committee.

"We’ll be working flat out Saturday and Sunday trying to juggle driving hours to catch up."

Negotiations on a new agreement between Patrick and the MUA broke down after the stevedore refused to accept the union’s demand of an 18 percent pay increase over three years.

Patrick has offered an annual 4 percent increase with an additional 1 percent if internationally recognised safety, productivity and efficiency targets are met.

In a letter sent to the MUA yesterday, Patrick Director Paul Garaty asked the MUA to enter into voluntary conciliation and arbitration before Fair Work Australia instead of waging strikes.

Garaty claims the union’s wage demand will cost Patrick $32 million in the first year of the agreement. According to the company, the agreement will cost $39 million in the second year and $50 million in the third year.

Garaty says the strikes will damage exporters and importers and tarnish the stevedore’s reputation as a reliable trade partner.

"We are again witnessing the actions of a union who are happy to hold the country to ransom in pursuit of its claims," Garaty said earlier this week.

He says both parties are still a long way off reaching an agreement.

Transport operators are also feeling the pinch from strong winds in NSW, which the Bureau of Meteorology forecasts to peak at 100km/h for parts of the Northern Rivers, Hunter and Mid North Coast districts.

The winds forced the closure of DP’s Port Botany terminal. Moylan labelled the MUA’s actions and the strong winds a "double whammy" for transport operators.

He also blames Sydney Ports and DP World for contributing to the cost burden, accusing them of not doing enough to inform operators of the closure.

He says trucks had already left for the port before the notification came through, while others queuing to load or unload were turned away.

"We had trucks an hour to an hour and a half heading out to the port for timeslots they had already cancelled," Moylan says.

He wants improved communication lines between the stevedores and the trucking industry, which will be forced to bear the cost of the cancelled timeslot.

"What we don’t want is ad hoc decisions made on the run," Moylan says.

Under port reforms introduced earlier this year, stevedores are required to reimburse trucking operators for cancelling timeslots. The regulation does not apply to unforseen circumstances, which includes the strong winds affecting NSW today.

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