Workplace Express: MUA derides "arbitrary deadline" for Patrick "final offer"

Stevedore Patrick says it has made its "final offer" to the MUA to resolve deadlocked negotiations for a new enterprise agreement for its four container terminals. 

 

The company said today that the union has until 5pm tomorrow to respond to the offer, but did not say would happen if it doesn’t meet the deadline. 

Patrick’s HR director, Alexandra Badenoc, described the overall offer as "very appropriate and better than CPI over the agreement’s four years." 

The proposed deal provides a pay rise of 1% in the first year, 2.5% in the second year and 2.75% in each of the last two years. 

Badenoch said the 1% pay rise in the first year "reflects the damage wrought by industrial action while the second to fourth year is generous considering low inflation." 

"Due to the protracted nature of the negotiations and the MUA’s approach, we need to offset the high cost to the business and our customers from 14-days’ strikes and counting." 

"Furthermore, the union has offered zero productivity improvements. 

“When we started these talks 12 months ago we put on the table increases of 3% annually, provided we could roll over the previous agreement and that the union refrain from industrial action." 

"Unfortunately for our employees, the union’s self interest took priority over that of its members." 

"The business climate has changed for the worse since then and so like any offer from any business we need to reflect external realities and pressures.” 

The year-long bargaining round included a national strike in January, the first at Patrick since the 1998 waterfront dispute. 

MUA members have recently staged two 72-hour strikes in Fremantle, and a 48-hour walkout at Port Botany. 

The union has given notice of 48-hour stoppages in Brisbane next week and in Melbourne from next Thursday. 

Patrick usually negotiates an enterprise deal in two parts - with Part A applying general provisions at all ports and Part B covering specific arrangements at individual ports. 

Badenoch said Patrick found itself in the "absurd situation of the MUA waging a national strike based on our reasonable rejection of its claim for a 32-hour week paid at a 35-hour rate at one terminal, Port Botany." 

However, the MUA today rejected Patrick’s "arbitrary deadline" for its "so-called final offer". 

Deputy national secretary Will Tracey said it was absurd to expect a response in 36 hours to an 18-page document that cross-referenced several other detailed documents as well as various ongoing discussions at four different terminals. 

Tracey criticised the comments by Badenoch as "highly inaccurate and inflammatory." 

"It is surprising to say the least that we are receiving public commentary on 12 months of industrial negotiations from someone who hasn’t attended a single meeting, not one,” he said.  
   
“The actions across the various terminals are because of both national and local claims and the company seeks to shift the goal posts each time we reach the position they state they seek."  
   
“Both Fremantle and Port Botany have outstanding local issues around the roster that applies to permanents and we are seeking some certainty for workers over hours of work within a framework of the flexibility required to service a modern stevedoring company."  
   
“Both roster claims meet the stated outcomes the company sought/demanded at the start of negotiations and present a cost neutral outcome against the current situation in each port."  
   
“All four terminals have issues with Patrick reneging on its initial salary offer in the space of a week — something we haven’t encountered in negotiations with this company since we first began the process of enterprise agreement negotiations in the early 1990s."  
   
At the national level, Tracey claimed the unresolved issues included job security, allocation of labour, safety clauses and officers, the productivity bonus system, redundancies and process of change in the terminals. 

Patrick's Badenoch claims that both the Melbourne and Brisbane Part B negotiations have been settled. 

"In Brisbane this week the union made a series of new claims but only after notifying us of the strike. 

“At no point in this 12-month negotiation did it table these claims." 

Badenoch said Tracey had not responded to a request to explain the union's negotiating stance and "we can only conclude this is all about Port Botany." 

She said the company – which is owned by the listed logistic company Asciano – could sub-contract some but not all of its container cargoes delayed by the strikes 

"It also creates a very significant and completely unacceptable backlog of containerised goods that will take weeks, if not months, to clear." 

"After almost 15 years without a union roster allocator Brisbane now wants one.  

“The last time this position was in union control in Brisbane was on November 25, 2001." 

"The allocations have proceeded for almost 15 years since without incident." 

"The union made no claim for the allocator position at any time in any subsequent EA since 2001."  
"To satisfy this claim we would need to hire an additional two full time employees for a job that takes about 20 minutes a day." 

"While the union raised this at the start of negotiations it was not pursued. Nor was it raised as an outstanding issue at the end of the Part B negotiations."