Paddy's Letter To The Editor, AFR, On Patrick's Dispute

Claims of illegal boycott action in response to Asciano's decision to fire half of its Port Botany workforce are false, writes Paddy Crumlin.

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Reports that maritime workers are threatening international boycott action in response to Asciano’s decision to fire half of its Port Botany workforce are false (“Patrick, MUA size each other up”, August 11-12).

Any international campaign against Asciano’s harsh and unfair treatment of its workforce will be driven by the facts; it will be directed at public, customer and shareholder awareness; and it will be based on exposing the clear lack of good faith on Asciano’s part in bargaining the recently concluded EBA. Good faith is required in the bargaining process under federal legislation. Asciano reached agreement with its workforce on a clear set of circumstances linked to clearly defined productivity measures. That agreement did not foresee a reduction in its workforce of up to 50 per cent due to an automation plan that was never tabled. The company has subsequently revealed that they were working on their automation plans during the negotiations.

It is claimed that Asciano was not able to release any information on automation before its disclosure to the Australian Security Exchange. The fact is that the release of further land (the “Knuckle”) by the Sydney Ports Corp was negotiated by Chris Corrigan in 2003 when Patrick’s was forced out of Darling Harbour to make way for the Barangaroo development, and this was reported in the AFR(“Asciano on verge of deal with Maritime Union”, May 10). Asciano secured the Knuckle in 2008, as reported in the AFR (“Patrick wins land fight at Port Botany’, July 25, 2008). The Knuckle could not be developed until the expansion of the third terminal was completed, which was due 2012. Asciano, like the rest of the industry, has been well aware for nearly a decade that this expansion would occur.

For the record, the MUA and previously the Waterside Workers Federation have reached agreement for many decades on the introduction of automation. This is about Asciano deliberately misleading its workforce and any decision to impose automation without negotiation will be opposed. This opposition will include the ventilation of all of the facts in an international, public and corporate campaign that will be conducted legally, but with great gusto by international maritime workers who also would not have copped this treatment.

Paddy Crumlin

National Secretary

Maritime Union of Australia

13 August 2012