MUA threatens strike despite lockout warning

Patrick slams union's 'militant' tactics as workers' demand changes to their rostering arrangements

MUA threatens strike despite lockout warning
The decision for industrial action at Port Botany was taken after a members meeting last week, the MUA states.

The Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) has announced planned industrial action at Patrick’s Brisbane terminal after negotiations between the two sides hit yet another roadblock last week.

The union’s decision comes after the company warned its Port Botany workers that they could be locked out if they went ahead with the 48-hour strike starting April 19.

"We continue to consider all the options available to us under the present system, including the possibility of a lockout, an action we have studiously avoided taking so far," Patrick executive Alex Badenoch says.

The company has slammed "militant" unionists for convincing up to 140 workers at the Brisbane terminal to go on strike despite there being no outstanding issues between the company and the MUA at the site.

"We can only conclude that the small but militant Sydney branch of the MUA has convinced Brisbane delegates to throw their weight behind an industrial campaign that is completely without merit."

However, the union states that the decision for industrial action at Brisbane was taken after a members meeting last week and is not related to the strike at the Port Botany terminal.

The workers want changes to their rostering arrangements to guarantee them time off as some of them had been 'on call' for the past 10 years, MUA Brisbane deputy secretary Jason Miners says. 

The union also claims that the employees had made significant financial sacrifices during the automation phase at the Brisbane site.

The two sides have been negotiating terms of a new enterprise agreement after it expired in June last year.

The talks have derailed several times over the past months, with MUA workers initiating shutdowns across many terminals.

Badenoch says while the negotiations have been mostly constructive so far, there is "a small but highly influential group within the MUA has commandeered these negotiations as a means to boost its dwindling membership".

The company opposes the Union’s push for a 32-hour week on a 35-hour week pay rate.

"It appears to be a bid to exert further pressure on us to agree to Port Botany's unreasonable claim to work a 32-hour week at a 35-hour rate without offering any productivity improvement," Badenoch says.

"These tactics won't work."

However, the union claims the drop in hours was offset by a rise in higher-rate midnight and weekend shifts, and the roster changes proposed to Patrick were "cost neutral".

"We’ve been incredibly patient," MUA Sydney branch secretary Paul McAleer says.

"We’ve put in a wage claim that amounts to three per cent a year; we’re not seeking extreme wage increases. We do want wage and job security."

Patrick says it is also considering seeking government intervention to help find a way out of the impasse.

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