ALC calls on union to end port strikes

Michael Kilgariff says the MUA action will drain the industry’s efforts to improve efficiency on the waterfront

ALC calls on union to end port strikes
ALC MD Michael Kilgariff asks the union to 'get real' on the waterfront issue


The Australian Logistics Council (ALC) is urging the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) to call off nationwide strikes at Patrick terminals due to its ensuing effect on the Australian economy.

ALC MD Michael Kilgariff says MUA’s "unwarranted action" is damaging to the ecomony and threaten the efficiency of the supply chain sector.

"It is time for unions to 'get real' on the waterfront and accept that their claims run contrary to national competitiveness," Kilgariff says.

The union is currently embroiled in a bitter dispute over enterprise agreement issues relating to job security and pay.

All Patrick container terminals went into complete shut down on Monday as the union called in a 24-hour strike, with more coordinated stoppages planned for next week.

"An efficient supply chain underpins every aspect of modern life and is utterly indispensable to our home lives and our businesses," Kilgariff says.

"The flow-on effects from this industrial action and claim will continue to grow and will impact on every sector reliant on an efficient port sector to facilitate imports and exports.

"Putting at risk port supply chain efficiency is highly irresponsible when the claims underpinning them are extreme and would not pass your everyday ‘pub test’," he says.

Patrick’s four terminals – Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Fremantle – handle almost 45 per cent of all container cargo in Australia as a result the stoppages are a huge blow to the gross domestic product.

Kilgariff says the industrial action is costing the economy "at least $40 million a day" adding that it is ultimately the "Australian businesses and Australian families who will pay the price".

"Not only does the logistics industry represent approximately 8.6% of GDP and adds more than $130 billion to the Australian economy, every 1% increase in efficiency in the sector boosts GDP by approximately $2 billion," he says.

"The union’s claims, which involve massive labour cost increases, restrictions on innovation and competitiveness, would have the reverse effect and would drain industry’s efforts to improve efficiency on the waterfront.

"An efficient port sector is fundamental to a strong and prosperous economy, and as a country, we simply cannot afford the actions of a small union contingent to undermine productivity on the waterfront," Kilgariff says.

Patrick claims that the union is seeking a $285 increase in the amount paid to Port Botany stevedores which would result in the stevedores getting paid $995 for an eight-hour shift on Sundays.

Patrick director Alexandra Badenoch says the demands made by the union are "very unreasonable".

"Port Botany (in Sydney) is the standout in the claim that would be a 53 per cent increase in our labour costs," Badenoch says.

In other states it would "add less than 10 per cent to the company’s overall labour costs".

However, the union insists the issue is "not about wages", it is about ensuring job security for the staff.

MUA’s deputy national secretary Will Tracey says the union is "looking for assurances that the workers will not be used as cannon fodder so that Asciano can look more appealing to shareholders and its potential buyer".

In August last year, Canada's Brookfield Infrastructure made a $9 billion cash-and-share offer for Asciano, an offer soon matched by a Qube Logistics-led consortium that includes Global Infrastructure Partners and Canada Pension Plan Investment Board.

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