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Union says it would extend Patrick Terminals an olive branch for a 1-year workplace agreement extension

The Maritime Union of Australia is planning to offer a peace deal to Patrick Terminals and stop industrial action at the company’s container terminals in exchange for a one-year extension of the existing workplace agreement.

The duo is set to appear today in a conciliation hearing of the Fair Work Commission.

Patrick Terminals applied on September 28 to the Fair Work Commission seeking to end the industrial action, saying it was ‘crippling Australia’s major container terminals.’

The industrial action is affecting Patrick terminals in Sydney, Melbourne Brisbane, and Fremantle, according to the terminal operator.

The company is also asking that the Commonwealth intervene in the proceedings.

The union proposes to maintain the status quo by keeping the existing terms and conditions in addition to a 2.5 per cent pay rise to wharfies.

Reaching the deal would prevent any form of protected industrial action from occurring during the duration of the deal.

“When the MUA and Patrick sit down for a conciliation hearing before the Fair Work Commission today, the union will be putting forward this genuine, reasonable, and fair peace offer that could bring the current dispute to an immediate end,” MUA National Secretary Paddy Crumlin said.

It would provide certainty for farmers, exporters, and the general community, and allow Patrick and the union to refocus our efforts on the ongoing challenges posed by the COVID crisis.”

Patrick CEO Michael Jovicic said the MUA industrial action in pursuit of 6% annual pay rises is inflicting serious harm on the business, customers, importers, exporters and shipping lines.

“We have been in talks for seven months on a new enterprise agreement and the MUA have been inflicting strikes, go slows and work bans on the company for nearly a month. The union is threatening to ramp up the industrial action this week and has notified of a 24 hour strike at Port Botany on Friday,” Jovicic added.

“As a result of the MUA action there are now 40 container ships off the Australian coast waiting to come into port. Port Botany is running three weeks behind schedule and our Melbourne terminal more than a week. We now have close to 90 thousand containers being held up and there’s no end in sight.”

The terminal operator said that MUA claims for new enterprise agreement and current pay conditions would add an additional A$40 million per annum to operational costs across the Patrick business.

Patrick has offered guaranteed payrises of 1.5% and 2.5 % over four years.

According to the union, Patrick is proposing to remove conditions from the current agreement that govern things like rosters, hours of work, and family-friendly provisions, which resulted in the dispute.

By reaching this deal, the two parties can move forward with bargaining about what a future agreement would look like, otherwise, the situation could escalate, Crumlin said.

The union and the terminal operator have been clashing over delays at the container terminals caused by the industrial action during COVID-19 times.

The union argues the terminal operator’s claims on the extent of delays are exaggerated, while on the other hand Patrick CEO says the industrial action at Port Botany terminal has seen productivity cut by half in the last four weeks.

The Prime Minister of Australia Scott Morrison accused the Maritime Union of holding the country to ransom over work stoppages in relation to industrial negotiations. 

The Guardian reports that Morrison even said that sending in the military to settle the wharf strike was not off the table.

Christian Porter, the Attorney-General, Industrial Relations Minister, said earlier today MUA’s action to ask for a wage increase at a time when so many Australians have lost their jobs due to COVID-19 and when patients’ lives might be in danger due to supply chain interruption impacting medicine supply was “terribly misjudged.”

“We’ve got no choice but to intervene in the matter and try to bring it to a resolution,” he said, adding that a one-year extension would not resolve the issue, as this could happen again in six or 12 months’ time.

“I think it would be desirable to actually conclude the three or four-year agreement and that seems to me to be sensible. But, the Government takes advice on these things. We have very serious and legitimate concerns about the consequences of the actions that the MUA are taking,” he added. 

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