Patrick lockout at hand as staff rejects pay offer


Company warns of potential staff lockout amid fears of further MUA industrial action

Patrick lockout at hand as staff rejects pay offer
Negotiations between Patrick and the union members have broken down once again.

 

Patrick has threatened workers of a potential lockout of all port terminals following an overwhelming rejection of its proposed enterprise agreement by the wharfies.

After months of failed negotiations with the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA), the company decided to take its proposal directly to the wharfies through a direct ballot from May 4-9.

Out of the 827 workers who voted only 14 expressed agreement with Patrick's final pay offer, leading the company to contemplate a potential lockout across terminals in the coming weeks.

"If further industrial action is initiated, a lockout of the workforce becomes a more probable measure rather than a mere possibility," Patrick executive Alex Badenoch says.

"This is not a path that we want, however the legal and industrial framework provides little option for employers negotiating with unions who are unable or unwilling to make pragmatic and principled arrangements with employers."

"If we cannot reach agreement on what is a fair offer, or have the matter arbitrated by consent then our choices narrow considerably."

Despite the workers’ rejection of the proposal, Patrick says its offer still stands.

"We consider it extraordinary that our people who, by any measure, are extremely well paid, not only knocked back an average annual 2.25 per cent pay rise at a time when underlying inflation is at a record low of less than 2 per cent annually.

"Our offer would have taken the average pay for a full-time employee at Port Botany to more than $180,000.

"This is in addition to the five weeks of paid annual leave and six rostered weeks off our permanent employees enjoy."

The union has not announced its plan of action following the company announcement.

"For the present we remain stuck in a needlessly adversarial industrial relations environment that deems it acceptable for employers and employees to butt heads to their mutual detriment over matters critical to both every few years," Badenoch says.

One of the bones of contention in the proposed agreement is the future of stevedores following the sale of Patrick’s parent company Asciano to Qube Logistics.

The union has been demanding job security amid fears that hundreds of workers could be laid off once Qube takes over Asciano.

With the sale due to complete at the end of June, Patrick says the union has less than 60 days to make a decision before starting the process again with the new owners.

"That would be a terribly damaging and costly indulgence, and it is our employees who may ultimately pay the biggest price for that indulgence," Badenoch says.

"These are the very people whom the MUA purports to represent."

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.

Earlier this year, it was announced that Qube will buy Patrick for $2.915 million in a 50-50 joint venture with Brookfield and its partners.

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.

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