Stalled negotiations between Patricks Stevedores and the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) have resulted in a series of rolling strikes by MUA members demanding higher wages.
Patrick has hit back at an MUA proposal it says would result in a nearly 200 percent increase in employment costs, reports The Australian.
Patrick would not, "be held to ransom by a union that appears to be returning to its old ways, flexing its muscle and entering into coercive strike behaviour in an attempt to force us into agreement,” Bulk and General Operations General Manager Warwick Sommer told The Australian.
The MUA is pushing for an increase in permanent staff, claiming casuals make up nearly 60 percent of Patrick’s workforce. It also disputes Patrick’s employment cost projections, and says Patrick has made no attempt to reach an agreement over the past seven months.
"The rolling strikes currently being conducted by the MUA against the general stevedoring operations of Patricks are serious and regrettable,” Llew Russell, CEO of Shipping Australia (SAL) said yesterday.
"The union is seeking a 24 percent pay increase for the first year and 10 percent in each of the next two years which would increase the Patrick’s general stevedoring wage bill by around 194 percent, which is simply making Australia uncompetitive internationally and SAL would have thought severely straining the future viability of the company as a whole.
"This is increasing Australia’s unreliability as both an importer and exporter of goods like steel, timber and propellers for wind farms and many other outsized and heavy machinery and so on which is imported into Australia. We have to ask ourselves, is this a return to the bad old days?” Mr Russell said.
"The issue of permanency being sought by the union does not seem to reflect the different requirements for different ships, such as 60 wharfies required for a pure car carrier and say nine for a break bulk vessel carrying, for example, construction equipment.”
In addition SAL pointed out that the vessel calls at many of these facilities are erratic and relatively low in volume.
SAL pointed to the fact that is certainly not helping in the provision of much needed items for reconstruction following the floods in southeast Queensland, northern New South Wales and Victoria but SAL is urging both parties to resolve their differences as soon as practicable in a way that is realistic in terms of wage increases and promoted increased safety.
"Our members are concerned that up to 160 workers have been on strike since January 29 at Fremantle, Albany and the Australian Marine Complex in Kwinana until yesterday. This follows rolling strikes at Webb Dock East in Melbourne.
"The union has complained that after seven months of negotiation that Patrick was yet to make an offer for their enterprise-based agreements but we agree it was not appropriate to do so while these rolling strikes are in place and notifications of further strikes are still currently, as we understand it, being received by Patrick,” Mr Russell continued.
Patrick has said that it has repeated an offer to increase permanency at most worksites but that the union had refused the offers.