Australian dockers accused of threatening Christmas with strike action
Major Australian ports are bracing for the impact of a dockworker strike against the country’s largest terminal operator. Union action comes as ports continue to struggle to maintain operations amid persistent restrictions linked to COVID-19. As Australians prepare for the busy summer season and the upcoming Christmas holidays, fears grow of supply chain disruptions and shortages, the union said was quick to fire.
The Maritime Union of Australia has announced that after 18 months of negotiations with Patrick Terminals, it will begin continued worker action against operators who handle more than 40 percent of all container freight entering Australia. “The docks are expected to leave work by 12 noon every Monday, Wednesday and Friday,” the MUA said. The focus is on the Port of Melbourne, but will also include other actions in Sydney, Fremantle and Brisbane.
A spokesperson for Patrick called the actions “confusing”, said they had been negotiating with the union for more than 19 months and had provided “a very generous pay raise, guaranteed no layoffs and made a commitment to preserve jobs”.
Patrick CEO Michael Jovicic said: “MUA is clearly embarking on a major industrial campaign before Christmas. It looks like the union is trying to deprive the Melbourne public of Christmas gifts after everything the Victorians have been through in the past 18 months – it’s truly mind-boggling. “
The MUA was quick to respond, saying the company was engaging in an “exaggerated public relations spin”, stating firmly that rotating strikes throughout October “would not ruin Christmas”. The union accuses the terminal operator of “corporate tactics to refuse a modest pay rise and remove previously agreed conditions on secure jobs.” The union says it declined an offer to renew the previous contract due to changes that would affect the job security of its members.
“That the Christmas shelves are not stocked on time is a complete make-up,” said MUA Deputy National Secretary Jamie Newlyn. “There is a lot of capacity on the Australian waterfront with other container terminal operators to make sure our stores are full of stock and the kids get their Christmas presents. We’re trying to limit the impact on the public by simply quarantining the action at Patrick, where the dispute is. “
Patrick Terminals says, however, that the mobile strikes will have a much bigger impact as they will spread to neighboring operations and other ports in the country. Retailer associations fear the impact on small stores, with Patrick saying the strike was most likely to impact imported electronics, furniture, sports equipment and building materials as it approaches. Xmas.
Talks between the union and the terminal operator reportedly collapsed last Friday, September 24, after the union rejected an offer of a 2.5 percent wage increase for four years. The union started notifying union actions planned over the weekend.
Earlier in 2021, the Maritime Union of Australia entered into separate agreements in February with DP World and in June with Hutchison Ports for its terminals in Sydney and Brisbane. MUA and Patrick have been locked in a protracted dispute. The union organized a union action in September 2020 against the Patrick terminal in Port Botany in Sydney and before the union was fired to work around 100,000 containers were said to have been saved in the port.