MUA told to stop covert industrial action at Patrick

Fair Work Commission issues order but concedes it can’t force individuals to accept overtime work

MUA told to stop covert industrial action at Patrick
Patrick's terminal at Port Botany may face a labour crunch as the end of the financial year approaches


The Fair Work Commission (FWC) has ordered the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) to cease an unprotected industrial action that is seeing members refuse overtime work at Patrick’s Port Botany terminal.

Staff on the permanent irregular roster (PIRs) are engaged on an annual basis to work a total of 1820 hours over the year to each June 30. Once that number of hours is reached, individual PIRs are encouraged to accept overtime work at attractive penalty rates.

But as the pointy end of the PIR contracts draws near, Patrick has discovered that none of its workforce is accepting the overtime work. Unlike previous years, it is facing the prospect of having no PIR workers for the remainder of June.

The company applied to the FWC to order the campaign – that it says is being directed covertly by the MUA – be stopped.

FWC Commissioner Ian Cambridge noted that the campaign did fall in to the legal definition of organised industrial action.

"The most significant factor that there is an organised approach to the refusal of PIR employees to work overtime is that not one individual PIR has made themself available for overtime," Cambridge says.

"I am unable to accept that this circumstance could arise in the absence of any coordinated approach taken amongst the PIRs."

He made the order as requested by the company, but noted that forcing individuals to accept overtime work would have some "practical difficulties".

"Which individuals would be required to volunteer presents as something of a dilemma," he says.  

"How many individuals would need to volunteer in order to signify compliance?

"And what of the individuals who still do not volunteer even if a sufficient number do volunteer, consistent with the previous year?

"What of the case of an individual who had consciously planned for an extended paid break from work once their 1820 hours had been reached?"

Cambridge urged the MUA to ensure its members were advised of the order and the potential ramifications of breaking it.

A spokesperson for the MUA declined to comment.

The order will remain in place until June 30.

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