Fremantle Port: workers strike again

Strikes at Fremantle Port resume

Fremantle Port: workers strike again
Fremantle port strikes again

By Sean Muir | March 21, 2012

Strikes at Fremantle Port will resume
this week
after five consecutive days of industrial action finished Monday.

Two separate disputes -
one involving Asciano's Patrick subsidiary,
the other involving Patrick’s maintenance contractor, Ativo - brought the Patrick Fremantle Port to a standstill recently.

An Asciano spokeswoman says the latest strikes, which started Wednesday last week and finished Monday, affected 10 ships and 7767 containers - stopping 65 percent of container trade movement at the port.

She says the cargo included refrigerated food and drinks, as well as essential mining, earthworks and agricultural equipment.

"It’s important to understand that when we are talking about strike action at the Patrick Fremantle Port, it’s not just impacting our operations, it is also impacting the livelihood of small businesses waiting on deliveries, or the mining industry - basically everyone that relies on that container trade to make a living,’’ the spokeswoman says.

She says while the work stoppages officially finished on Monday morning, they will be followed by an indefinite period of rolling stoppages and work bans at the terminal.

The spokeswoman says Ativo maintenance workers will also strike again on March 21 -22, meaning Patrick will be unable to unload ships.

"We need maintenance operators on hand – it is part of the way we operate in case something goes wrong," she says.

There have been 10 stoppage and three bans notices in the past 18 months at the terminal.

But the spokeswoman confirmed yesterday that after holding discussions with federal and state government,
Asciano had applied to Fair Work Australia (FWA) to recommence conciliation with the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA).

She says this action was taken in a bid to advance and conclude discussions on an Enterprise Agreement (EA) for Patrick workers.

Patrick Terminals and Logistics Director Alistair Field says meetings with Infrastructure and Transport Minister Anthony Albanese and Employment and Workplace Relations Bill Shorten on Monday helped to get both parties back around the negotiating table.

"We are very pleased to announce that Minister Shorten has played a constructive and interested role in Asciano’s bid to resolve an EA for its Patrick Container Terminals employees with the MUA," he says.

Following the meeting, Asciano held high level discussions with the MUA.

"We are encouraged that progress has been made and the MUA has agreed to return to the bargaining table," Field says.

"This is not about the money - this is about ensuring that as a business we retain the right to manage our operations while working within the appropriate industrial relations framework."

"Asciano is responsible for more than 50 per cent of Australia’s import and export container freight across our nation’s ports so it is essential that we finalise the EA so we are able to minimise the impact of any industrial disruption to Australia’s farmers, manufacturers and exporters."

"We will continue to negotiate within the FWA process to ensure the industrial umpire can guide the discussions and remain focussed on resolving the EA without any further disruption so that we can deliver the wage increases we committed to for our employees and the productivity benefits for our customers."

Shipping Australia Chief Executive Officer Llew Russell says Shipping Australia will continue to support Asciano.

"Fremantle is often the last port of call so cotton exports, for example being loaded in Brisbane or Sydney will be delayed by the Fremantle stoppages," he says.

"In addition, WA exporters and importers have been severely disadvantaged."

"For many years, collectively we have been seeking to build Australia’s reputation overseas as a reliable supplier and on top of all the stoppages over the last eighteen months, clearly this reputation is now at risk which will do long-term damage to our trading prospects and provide significant challenges to exporters struggling with the high Australian dollar."

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