After previously flatly rejecting safety concerns raised by the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA), Patrick Stevedores has agreed to return to the negotiating table.
MUA members at Webb Dock on Friday afternoon voted to return to work after management committed to put an offer in writing to the union before the end of this week.
MUA National Secretary Paddy Crumlin said Patrick's backflip followed Fair Work Australia's finding that the union has been genuinely trying to reach agreement.
"We have serious concerns about safety and training, we're working within the letter and the spirit of the law, and we're determined to deliver an outcome that helps build sustainable business outcomes while also building worker safety," he said.
"Safety is not an overhead that can be cut to boost shareholder returns. It's an investment in the future of the company and the shipping industry as a whole."
MUA Assistant National Secretary Ian Bray said the union was honouring its commitment to postpone the action if the company returned to the negotiating table.
"The fact that our members have honoured their commitment to cease all action not only shows that we are true to our word, but also demonstrates further proof of our commitment to reaching an agreement," he said.
"The union will re-enter these negotiations in good faith. These negotiations have been going on for some seven months now, and our members had only resorted to protected industrial action as a last resort."
He said Patrick had stated that it would put their offer to the union this week.
In a decision on the union's application for protected action ballot orders released in Perth on January 31, Fair Work Australia Commissioner Cloghan stated: "the MUA has been, and is genuinely trying to reach an agreement with the Employer".
The decision also said: "It appears that on each occasion the Employer states that it will provide an offer to the MUA and doesn't, because of continuing industrial action, the MUA seeks a further type of protected industrial action it can introduce into the workplace".
After commenting that meetings were often two months apart, Fair Work Australia also stated: "... it is understandable why the employees sense that nothing is happening and (have) frustration with the lack of progress on negotiations".
Media contacts: Paddy Crumlin 0418 379 660; Ian Bray 0403 325 376; Zoe Reynolds 0417 229 873; Justin Coomber 0457 833 896.