The Maritime Union of Australia warns Qube Logistics is threatening the newly-struck national peace on the docks by opening a small, effectively non-unionised container yard within Patrick’s Port Botany Terminal.
Less than five months ago, the MUA and Patrick Stevedores celebrated a win for all, after union members nationally voted more than 95 percent in favour of a new four-year workplace agreement.
Dubbed the “best deal on the docks in many years” it delivered stability and marked a new beginning between old foes, the MUA and Patrick’s, as well as its workforce.
But MUA Deputy National Secretary Will Tracey said that was now under serious threat.
“Why would Qube want to jeopardise future contracts at this commercially sensitive time by starting a dispute at this small container yard, when it is has just invested around $1 billion in Patrick’s and is seeking new business for its Moorebank Logistics Park?” Tracey said.
“Qube is already on the back foot trying to make up business in highly competitive market after Patrick’s lost its lucrative A3 shipping contract to DP World and Hutchison last year.”
In its half-yearly report released in February this year, Qube acknowledged the need to: “mitigate the loss of the A3 consortium contract which Patrick was unsuccessful at retaining and has reduced Patrick’s earnings from November 2016 onwards.”
The empty container park, fenced off inside the Patrick’s Terminal, was recently sub-leased to Qube. The container company told the MUA in February this year, the site was not part of the Patrick business, and therefore not covered by the MUA workplace agreement.
Despite 260 MUA members working at Patrick’s Port Botany Terminal, no MUA member has been employed inside the fenced-off area.
MUA Sydney Branch Secretary Paul McAleer said the recently signed Enterprise Agreement (EA) had secured a number of positive outcomes for the membership after several years of industrial recalcitrance on the part of the employer.
“Before the ink was dry on the new EA, with workers looking forward to some industrial certainty for the first time in over two decades, the company has again ambushed the workforce with its attempt to deny stevedores the right to work on site at Port Botany,” McAleer said.
“Patrick did something similar in 2012 when they announced the implementation of automation at Port Botany only two months after the then EA came into operation, despite constant denials during negotiations there were any plans to automate. That decision cost the jobs of over 200 workers with more than 80 being forcibly made redundant.
“Patrick’s attempts to compartmentalise the Port Botany Terminal by putting up flimsy fences to restrict job opportunities for our members is a sneaky, opportunistic plot to de-unionise the terminal, or at the very least to insource cheap labour.
“The attempt to reintroduce manual yard functions after two years of failed automated yard functions is a betrayal of the redundant workforce who built Patrick into a market share leader in Sydney, only to see that disappear in the years since.
“Patrick has used automation as a weapon against their employees that has ruined lives and the reputation of their business. They are more interested in their ideological hatred of workers than investment in the job security of their employees.”