Logistics News

MUA waterfront dispute sees steps forward and back

DP World confirms Sydney understanding as Patrick stays firm


Once again, Patrick is holding its ground in the face of the Maritime Union of Australia’s (MUA’s) long industrial relations experience.

Following talks at the Fair Work Commission (FWA) over two days, the MUA announced it would immediately end industrial action at Patrick terminals in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Fremantle.

It then extended the offered rollover period for the existing enterprise agreement to two years from one while seeking “industry-standard” 2.5 per cent a year pay rises, down from the 6.5 per cent it admits is an ambit claim.

But Patrick says the MUA rejects an offer of 1.5 per cent pay increases for each of the next four years with no changes to their current conditions or rosters.

Saying he was “amazed the MUA had rejected the offer”, Patrick CEO Michael Jovicic cast the MUA’s changing position this week as: “Having lost in the court of public opinion they decided to retreat to fight another day.”

He continues: “At least now we can get on with clearing the backlog which exceeds more than 100,000 containers around Australia. My operations team estimate it will take between two and three months to return to normal.”

“Hopefully this means we will avoid shortages of goods at Christmas time.”

“Also, this morning we have been contacted by a freight forwarder seeking assistance to locate and move a container containing essential diabetes medication.

“They advise there is now a critical shortage of these drugs. The ship was delayed by three weeks due to the industrial action.”

“The container was said to have been located and was to have been discharged from Port Botany last night.”

The latter issue relates to claim and counterclaim on whether medical supplies and medicines have been affected by the dispute.

Read how the NFF views problems with stevedores and with the MUA, here 

The MUA says the deal collapsed “after the company insisted workers choose between substantially lower pay rises, or changes to the existing agreement that would allow the massive casualisation of the workforce, stripping away job security in the midst of the Covid crisis.

“Patrick said it would only accept the union’s rollover proposal — which would have maintained the status quo in relation to workplace rights and conditions — if workers agreed to accept pay rises a full 1 per cent a year below those being provided by other stevedores, including Patrick’s co-owner Qube Logistics.”

It says FWC hearing has been adjourned, and will take place over two days from October 26.

“Resolving this dispute requires compromise from both sides,” MUA national secretary Paddy Crumlin says.

“The union did that with our offer of a genuine peace deal, yet Patrick is instead forcing workers to choose between sacrificing their job security or losing money.”

He adds that: “On Monday, the public was told medical supplies were being held up, yet by Wednesday the CEO of Patrick was forced to admit he wasn’t aware of a single medical container that was delayed.

“In the same way, this hearing will expose the company’s outrageous claims that limited, legal industrial action was causing massive delays for farmers, importers, and consumers for the fraud they are.

“It will also expose the fact that Patrick has been using this dispute as cover to implement massive increases to landside fees, blaming the union for what is clearly a management move to gouge more money out of their customers.”

Meanwhile, at Patrick-competitor DP World Australia (DPWA) there was a more relaxed air, with an in-principle three-year enterprise agreement at DP World’s Sydney terminal in Port Botany.

“I’m pleased we have reached an in-principle agreement at DP World Sydney that provides a wage increase for our employees as well as enabling productivity improvements which enhance our service levels,” DPWA chief operating officer, terminals Andrew Adam says.

“No protected industrial action will take place for the term of the three-year agreement, delivering stability for our customers and the wider NSW supply chain.

“Industrial action has also been withdrawn at all DP World’s terminals in Brisbane, Fremantle and Melbourne, ensuring we are well placed to reach in-principle agreements at DP World’s remaining terminals and progress a complete enterprise agreement.”


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