Shipping Australia's Comments Take Us Back To The Bad Old Days Of Workchoices

"Mr Russell is obviously another who gets teary eyed with sentimentality over that atrocious period of industrial distortion and belligerence against workers" - Paddy Crumlin

Maritime Union of Australia National Secretary Paddy Crumlin has rejected comments by Shipping Australia's Lew Russell about the union's protected industrial action against Patrick.

Mr Crumlin said Mr Russell's claim that the action was a "return to the bad old days" were probably closer to the truth than Mr Russell realised. "It feels like it is a return to the bad old days as Mr Russell says - but the bad old days of Workchoices on the part of Patrick," Mr Crumlin said. "Mr Russell is obviously another who gets teary eyed with sentimentality over that atrocious period of industrial distortion and belligerence against workers.

"Mr Russell might do better to concentrate on making Shipping Australia more than just a misrepresentative name for who he works for. He could start doing this by refusing to represent those foreign ship owners of his organization who use international crew members to ply their trade inside the Australian domestic freight market without the imposts of meeting Australian tax and other regulatory standards applied to the real Australian shipowners.

"These are the foreign owners registering most of their vessels in places like Liberia and Panama, places no doubt Mr Russell is very fond of indeed because they are able to reduce labour costs in the worst possible fashion, one that is above all about nothing but the shipowners convenience when picking a flag.”

Mr Crumlin said the real truth Patrick's continued stonewalling of EBA negotiations had led to the current protected industrial action taken by the union.

He said despite seven months of negotiating and the members culling their claims, Patrick have still not put an offer on the table.

"As we've said a thousand times and we'll say a thousand more, wage increases are our lowest priority," he said."We're committed to arrive at a wage outcome that is in line with the market generally, takes into account productivity improvements and sustains the viability of the business. Patrick's distortions and public misrepresentations in this area are irresponsible in the extreme.

"Safety, training, career progression and job certainty are our absolute priorities. Sixty percent of the workforce at Patrick bulk and general are casual. Those casual workers have been stuck in limbo for, on average, five years: some for as long as nine. 

"That's nine years of waiting for a call the night before a potential shift to hear whether you're working the next day.

"What has really riled me and riled my members is the erosion of safety standards and a management culture which encourages workers to overlook safety concerns.

"On January 17 the Melbourne Magistrates Court ruled against Patrick, finding them guilty of an indictable offence for discriminating against an OHS representative for raising safety issues on the job. This is the sort of behaviour is unacceptable and we're seeking to put an end to it."

Mr Crumlin said management at Patrick bulk and general in recent years had placed emphasis on what they call 'Behavioural Based Safety' and their approach was to seek to apportion blame of OHS issues to workers.

He said 'Behavioural Based Safety' focused on changing the behaviour of workers in order to prevent occupational injuries and illnesses.

"By blaming workers for their injuries and illnesses, these programs rely on the belief that workplace health and safety problems are the result of 'unsafe acts'," Mr Crumlin said.

"This approach completely overlooks the vast majority of safety concerns that emanate from management's outdated, poor work processes, lack of job training and discrimination against safety reps.

"This company has an appalling safety record in an industry currently under enormous duress as wharfies continue to die on the job in record numbers. They have been prosecuted for their failures in the area of safety and responsibility to their employees welfare. To hide behind this media beat up that it’s the big bad MUA being irresponsible on wages is an absolute disgrace as are Shipping Australia's gratuitous comments"

MUA Assistant National Secretary Ian Bray said the union would welcome Patrick's commitment to stevedoring safety regulation.

"But they need to cease the politicisation of waterfront safety for industrial purposes," he said. "The stubbornness exhibited by Patrick has not been confined to EBA negotiations.

"While Patrick bulk and general has participated in Work Safe's Transport Advisory Group (TAG), it has not agreed to any stevedoring specific regulation. They refuse to commit to the major items of importance that can ensure the unacceptable rate of fatalities on the waterfront is brought to an end."

Mr Bray said the union would welcome commitment from Patrick regarding improved Safety provisions in EBA including clauses which guarantee protection of and consultation with health and safety representatives.

Media contacts: Paddy Crumlin 0418 379 660; Ian Bray 0403 325 376; Zoe Reynolds 0417 229 873; Justin Coomber 0457 833 896. 365-375 Sussex Street, Sydney, 2000, Australia Telephone: (02) 9267 9134        Facsimile:  (02) 9261 3481 Email:  muano@mua.org.au