Wharfies head back to work

Jon Condon, 28/05/2011


The Maritime Union of Australia called off its strike action at major Australian container ports operated by Patrick Stevedores on Friday afternoon – three days into an intended seven-day action.

The MUA went out last Wednesday, crippling shipping activity in the ports of Brisbane, Sydney and Fremantle. Melbourne withdraw from strike action at the last minute, due to a Fair Trade Australia ruling over the illegitimacy of an earlier union ‘go-slow’ campaign.

In a statement issued yesterday, Patrick welcomed the eleventh-hour decision to lift the industrial action, but said the parties were no closer to a resolution of the matter.

Patrick director Paul Garaty said the MUA’s decision to lift the bans did not change the fundamental issues behind the MUA’s claims.

“We are pleased that the Union has recognised what they were doing to the exporters and importers of Australia. These people have suffered enough at the hands of natural disasters without now having to suffer at the hands of the MUA.”

“Having held importers and exporters to ransom it appears the Union wants to be thought of as a hero for removing their own industrial action. Make no mistake, unless the MUA removes the threat of further action, it will continue to call strikes which hurts not only our business, but also the hundreds of small businesses, farmers, truckers and retailers who are already voicing their concerns,” Mr Garaty said.

The MUA should guarantee all Australians that it will take no further strikes, bans or limitations of any kind in their pursuit of an unsustainable wage increase and other demands from Patrick, he said.

“It is ironic that the Union has withdrawn its industrial action at a time when the validity of that action would have been tested in Fair Work Australia. The Union will now return to work on the weekend and make up much of its lost pay on overtime.”

As part of the negotiations, Patrick offered an increase of 15pc over the life of the
Agreement, or 5pc annually for three years. There is also an inbuilt productivity component to balance wage increases with improvements in productivity consistent with the premise of the Fair Work Act.

Patrick said it would continue to work within the Fair Work process and continues to offer to MUA the opportunity to enter into voluntary conciliation to reach agreement.

In a corresponding statement issued yesterday, the MUA said it would ‘save Patrick from itself’ by returning to work.

"Patrick has chosen to escalate this dispute by unilaterally closing down its container terminals, which was never intended by the MUA," National Secretary Paddy Crumlin said.

Deputy National Secretary Mick Doleman said the MUA had always intended to continue to work after the latest notification.

"Patrick owns the decision to shut down the ports but in any event the union has determined that work should resume in an effort to undo the damage of Patrick's decisions.

"We will now consult with our members and consult with the company and seek suitable resolution to the current dispute and the remaining areas of disagreement," Mr Doleman said.


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