FWC suspends all strikes at Patrick terminals

The commission has halted all further strikes by the MUA for 35 days

FWC suspends all strikes at Patrick terminals
The commission says it is "satisfied" that the suspension is "appropriate"


The Fair Work Commission (FWC) of Australia has suspended the protected industrial action by Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) members at Patrick Stevedores for a period of 35 days.

The suspension, announced on January 22, has been in effect from the date of decision.

Last Tuesday, Patrick filed a formal application to the FWC to have this week’s strikes cancelled pending further negotiations with the union.

Based on the matters specified in the application, the commission is "satisfied" that the suspension is "appropriate", the FWC decision statement says.

A complete list of reasons for the commission's decision will be announced "in due course".

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

All Patrick terminals across Australia were shut off last week for 24 hours as a result of an ongoing dispute between the union and Patrick over issues related to job security and pay.

The union had been planning a 48-hour stoppage at Port Botany commencing today, followed by coordinated four-hour stoppages in Melbourne and Brisbane.

Last week, the Australian Logistics Council (ALC) called on the union to suspend further strikes.

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

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 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".

"We think we pay a fair day’s wage for the work they do," Badenoch says.

Patrick says it will continue its attempts to negotiate terms with the union and is prepared to face an arbitrator, if the commission decides to call for one.

But 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 negotiations have stretched on this far because the company refuses to promise job security to its staff at a time when Patrick-owner Asciano is looking into selling the business.

"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," Tracey says.

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.

Speaking on the issue last week, federal employment minister Michaelia Cash said industrial ­action should be the "last resort" and "never be used to promote unrealistic claims which run contrary to the long-term interests of employees’’.

"Freight, rail and port logistics play a crucial role in ensuring Australia remains productive and competitive in an increasingly globalised economy.

"Actions that compromise productivity and put our international reputation at risk do nothing to serve the ­national interest," Cash said.

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