The Maritime Union of Australia today welcomed the Melbourne Magistrate Court findings that Patrick Stevedores was guilty of discrimination against a health and safety representative under the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 - SECT 76.
The court found in favour of Workcover for three of the five charges that Patrick was guilty of an indictable offence for discriminating against an OHS representative for raising safety issues on the job.
A former Patrick employee, MUA Geelong safety representative and key witness during the hearings, was suspended, reprimanded and threatened with the sack for raising safety breaches where workers' lives were at risk.
Three waterside workers were killed on the Australian wharves last year alone.
The court ruling comes as EBA negotiations resume with Patrick in Melbourne today over key safety issues, including the lack of training and high casualisation at bulk and general operations.
"The court decision is a vindication of the protected action our members have taken at Patrick bulk & general cargo facilities in recent weeks," said MUA National Secretary and President of the International Transport Workers' Federation Paddy Crumlin.
"Some commentators have been quick to label the MUA's strikes as somehow being ideologically driven - nothing could be further from the truth," said Ian Bray, assistant national secretary. "Our members are suffering at these facilities. Suffering intimidation and suffering indignity at the hands of indifferent management."
"Our concerns over safety are absolutely legitimate - as are our concerns over a management culture that would enable this sort of discrimination of an OHS representative," said Victoria state secretary Kevin Bracken. "Management have little respect for their workers, so little they're willing to compromise on safety and put lives at risk. This is not sustainable and Patrick must take action to redress this culture of intimidation."
It is the first finding under Section 76 of the act since is was introduced in 2005.
Patrick now faces fines of anything up to a total of $750,000. The court will will hand down its sentence this Friday.