Waterfront war heats up as Patrick seeks to axe work agreement

Patrick declares it'll hire who it wants on waterfront

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Patrick Terminals has moved to overturn the MUA's right to choose the workforce on the waterfront.

Patrick Terminals has moved to overturn the MUA's right to choose the workforce on the waterfront.

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No more Milo: worker side perks face the chop in dispute

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An exasperated Patrick Terminals has moved to axe a wage agreement with the Maritime Union of Australia, declaring it will end the "jobs for the boys" system on the waterfront.

The major stevedoring company that has terminals around Australia, exporting many agricultural goods, will file for the existing wage agreement to be terminated.

While the move could not come at a worst time as shipping schedules are hit by a shortage of sea containers and orders for christmas and ag exports hit a pinch point, Patrick said it has had enough after two years of failed wage negotiations.

The major sticking point has been that the MUA insists keeping its right to nominate people for work at Patrick Terminals.

Patrick Terminals has lodged an application with the Fair Work Commission to terminate its Enterprise Agreement with the MUA, the company anounced late on Tuesday.

It also says it will consider removing a number of nominated work entitlements within the agreement including "Foxtel and Milo". Workers would work under the existing award conditions.

"The agreement is no longer fit for purpose, as it contains a number of operational restrictions that have limited the ability of Patrick to meet customer requirements at a time of congestion in global supply chains," the company said.

"Patrick has been negotiating with its employees and the MUA since February 2020 to seek to address these restrictions and has held more than 70 meetings in pursuit of a new enterprise agreement.

"The MUA has launched more than 220 industrial actions against Patrick Terminals nationally during the negotiation period. This has intensified recently with further action launched at all four of Patrick's terminals in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Fremantle for the coming days and weeks."

Michael Jovicic, CEO Patrick Terminals said, "Enough is enough. We have presented the MUA with an attractive national offer on top of their already very generous agreement including a 10% pay increase across four years coupled with protections addressing concerns over the use of casuals and job security.

Also read: Patrick says MUA 'deliberately damaging company, economy'

"Negotiations have been ongoing for close to two years and frankly there seems to be no agreement to be had, particularly in Sydney, where the union is still demanding we hire from a selected list of family and friends.

"We are at the end of the road and need to have an agreement with our employees that works for our customers, and that allows us to remain competitive in the future market."

Terminating the agreement will allow Patrick to recruit and train employees without needing the agreement of the Union and remove any "friends and family" union imposed restrictions.

"The world has changed, and we need to be able to recruit and promote the best people for the job rather than be hamstrung by antiquated Union-led processes and policies that restrict our business," Mr Jovicic said.

"Our market share and business operations have suffered due to this relentless industrial campaign by the MUA and their insidious 'jobs for the boys' stance. We need to provide our customers with operational certainty and that includes a workable agreement with our employees. Our customers are demanding that we take action to resolve this situation."

Patrick Terminals has guaranteed not to change leave entitlements, salaries and other rates of pay that are applicable under the Enterprise Agreement for employees for a period of 6 months from the date of any termination order, probably next year.

Patrick Terminals has requested an expedited hearing of this application with the Fair Work Commission.

Patrick says the termination of the agreement will allow it to overhaul work practices and remove some conditions currently enjoyed by waterfront workers.

This would include "recruiting additional employees, without the need for the agreement of the Union"; "Determining the composition of the workforce so as to best meet operational requirements, without the need for the agreement of the Union, following consultation and making changes to rosters to meet changes in operational requirements, without the need for the agreement of the Union, following consultation".

It would stop "significant accumulation of hours that have been paid for in the annual salaries provided to employees, but not worked by them".

It would also remove from the Enterprise Agreement "matters which should be subject to policy", for example "provision of Foxtel, protective clothing, gym allowances, prescription glasses, tea/coffer (sic) and Milo, quiet rooms & WiFi, notice boards, microwaves, fridges, chairs, grills, lounges and recliner seats".

MUA national secretary Paddy Crumlin said the move by Patrick was "poor form" and "another example of the corporate arrogance and hubris by Patrick's senior management that has prevented earlier resolution of the few issues in our contract negotiations with them".

"There's more than enough fake news, spin and misrepresentation in the world today without Patrick Terminals' latest egregious contribution," Mr Crumlin said.

"Their announcement demonstrates a contempt for their employees. These are all hard working, proud workers who deliver for the Patrick Terminal business without complaint every day in the face of the enormous and debilitating conditions of COVID19.

"This attack in the Fair Work Commission amounts to bullying and intimidation. It is being done in such a way as to try to defame the workforce in a most disgraceful fashion by distorting public perceptions of a legally sanctioned bargaining process.

"The disagreements between the two parties are easily resolved and have been achieved within the industry with other stevedoring companies without them resorting to this type of character assassination.

"To seek to undermine the negotiations in this way at this critical time degrades the legitimate rights and needs of workers and their families, along with those same rights and needs in the wider working community.

"Our members are simply seeking fair pay and job security at a time when the Patrick Terminals business is enjoying spectacular growth in cargo volumes.

"Workers and their representatives will be at the bargaining table tomorrow where this negotiation deserves to be, discharging our responsibilities in bargaining with respect and professionalism with the company regardless of this pointless and damaging provocation."

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