Geelong Waterside Workers Take Action

Safety comes first.

MUA workers at Patrick bulk and general cargo facilities in Geelong have today notified Patrick that they are taking protected action this coming weekend. Frustrated by six months of failed negotiations, workers are insisting they will no longer risk their lives without a clear commitment to safety from management.

In a formal AEC ballot before Christmas, 98 per cent of workers at the Geelong facility voted in favour of protected action. Workmates at Melbourne's Webb Dock are supporting the action of their Geelong colleagues by enforcing a protected ban on personnel transfers to other Ports so they cannot be sent to cover Geelong shifts.

Melbourne workers are yet to determine if they will take more substantial action, pending the outcome of  the next round of EBA negotitions with management scheduled for Monday, January 10.  Workers unanimously voted in support of protected action last month.

Colleagues in Patrick facilities in Fremantle and Albany voted at the same time and each have already held action on December 27th and December 30th.

Despite their determination to wait until the new year for a response from management, the patience of the Geelong bulk and general dock workers has not been rewarded. Consequently, workers notified the company this week. They will work short shifts over the weekend leading up to a 24 hour stoppage on Monday.

MUA National Secretary and President of International Transport Workers' Federation Paddy Crumlin said members had full support of the union in the knowledge that bulk and general stevedoring is very dangerous.

"Workers at the country's bulk and general cargo facilities are literally risking their lives. We routinely have 20 tonne loads of unpacked timber or steel, moving between ship and shore and unfortunately, the statistics show that's where people get killed - that's where the injuries are.

"We've lost three workers last year, two out of bulk and general. Our New Year's resolution is to make the wharves safer.

"We don't want to strike.  We just want management to move on key issues of safety, training and permanency.  Strikes are the last card in the pack. Yet, our guys have been holding their breath for a resolution for six months and they're now asphyxiated," Mr Crumlin said.

A startling 60 per cent of the workforce is employed as casuals, many for over 9 years.  The average is around 5 years. There is minimal training and it is delivered without a strategic or purposeful framework.  

The claims being pursued by MUA members seek to provide:

?         Increase the levels of permanency

?         Career progression

?         Training for skills

?         OH&S training and adherence to procedures that will enhance the safety culture on the waterfront.

?         Greater accountability for the actions of management

?         Better processes for consultation rather than enforcement.

?         A disputes procedure that allows for arbitration by an independent umpire when the parties are unable to resolve disputes themselves.

The union remains committed to meeting with Patrick to get an agreement. However, despite six months of negotiations and no resolution to the National claims, there are concerns regarding the company's agenda as Patrick have not managed to close out any local negotiations at any of the 12 sites involved either.

Media contacts: Paddy Crumlin 0418 379 660; Zoe Reynolds 0417 229 873.