Patrick hopes to breaks impasse through ballot

MUA confident the offer will be rejected, company says lockout still on the cards

Patrick hopes to breaks impasse through ballot
Owing to limited options under the Fair Work Act, Patrick says it is looking at options on how to bring the negotiations to a close.


Patrick Stevedores is planning to put its ‘final offer’ on the proposed enterprise agreement (EA) directly to the workers at its four container terminals through a ballot from May 4-9.

The company says it has limited options under the Fair Work Act to break a bargaining deadlock, while warning that a lockout was still on the cards if the impasse continued.

"We have deliberately avoided using the powers the law makes available to us to lock out our workforce and we continue to show restraint," Patrick HR director Alexandra Badenoch says.

"We would welcome government intervention or arbitration from the Fair Work Commission to help resolve all outstanding issues, however we recognise that the scope for this to occur is limited.

"However, there is no doubt our options are narrowing and if this vote fails we will continue to look at how we can bring these negotiations to a close as quickly as possible.

"The remaining options include going to another vote, a consent arbitration process if the union agrees, but it also includes a lockout."

Patrick concedes that there was huge risk of the offer being rejected, but states that employees should have a say "ahead of any other action being taken to attempt to break the impasse that exists between Patrick and the MUA".

The ballot will be run by Elections Australia Pty Ltd in Sydney, Freemantle, Melbourne and Brisbane.

Last Thursday, Patrick set a 36-hour deadline for the MUA to accept the new EA or the company would consider taking penalty action against its workers.

The union responded by asking for an extension until Friday, April 22.

MUA deputy national secretary Will Tracey says the proposal tabled by the company included a complex document that required more than two days to investigate.

"Despite this offer being final, some of the terminals had been subsequently approached by local Patrick management with different offers containing opposing and contradictory claims to the ‘final offer’," Tracey says.

"Confusion is rife and I’m unable to ascertain any clarity on final offers 1, 2 & 3 because Patrick management refuses to take my phone calls.

"When the MUA started this process a year ago, we didn’t want or expect protracted negotiations, we’re frustrated too, but we’re not going to haphazardly agree to an 18-page document without proper consultation with the branches and membership."

Tracey says balloting the workforce was a sign of desperation that was likely to prove fruitless for Patrick.

"As an organisation that is based on democracy, we welcome the vote, which will only endorse what we the union has been telling Patrick throughout the year.

"Every single Protected Action Ballot, to date, has shown the membership is willing to fight for a fair EA even with the looming threats of lock-outs."

"I mean how meritorious can their offer be if Patrick have to stand over the workforce to get them to agree?"

Tracey remains confident that the workers will "overwhelmingly reject" Patrick’s offer.

The International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) has expressed its support to the MUA.

Patrick has repeatedly said that the protracted industrial action has affected its business and efficiency of the supply chain industry.

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