Patrick Stevedores has struck back against the maritime union’s plans to strike for 48 hours at its Port Botany terminal next week.
The Maritime Union of Australia, which shut down Patrick ports in Melbourne, Brisbane, Sydney and Fremantle for 24 hours on Monday, applied to the Fair Work Commission last week for further strikes at Port Botany.
However Patrick this afternoon petitioned the Commission to suspend the strikes in favour of a “cooling off” period.
Ten months of negotiations over the wharfies’ enterprise bargaining agreement ground to a halt late last year, with the union demanding the company enshrine “job security” in its enterprise bargaining agreement ahead of a potential sale of the stevedoring business by Patrick parent company Asciano.
MUA deputy national secretary Will Tracey said today: “The union is looking for assurances that the workers will not be used as canon fodder so that Asciano can look more appealing to shareholders and its potential buyer.
“The company refuses to enshrine job security and permanency in the agreement at a time they are seeking to sell the company and casualisation is becoming the norm.
However Alexandra Badenoch, a senior Patrick executive involved in the bargaining over the company’s new EBA, said any claims of job losses arising from a future sale were a “furphy”.
She has branded the union’s demands “unrealistic” and “unsustainable”.
It’s rumoured that the MUA‘s Sydney branch has been wary of Patrick’s Port Botany management since the 2012 EBA talks.
There’s understood to be lingering anger over Patrick’s announcement of further job losses from automation at Port Botany a mere month after finalising EBA negotiations with the union.
David Anderson, chief executive of ports peak body Ports Australia, said: “It’s hard to believe this is not some sort of pay back for the decision by … Patrick to introduce further automation at Port Botany.”
Ms Badenoch said the company would use any cooling off period approved by the Commission after a hearing on Thursday morning to communicate “directly” with its workforce.
“We don’t want to get into a bout of industrial action with us responding in kind, we want to find a way forward,” she told The Australian.
“The fortunes of the company and the employees are actually connected, and it’s important that we take the time to explain that and inform people as much as possible so they can make choices.”
The Australian reported today that the 24-hour shutdown of Patrick stevedore’s four port terminals could cost Australia’s economy more than $40 million in the busy period for imports leading up to Chinese New Year.