- Our Union
- Our Industries
Published: 11 Jan 2022
Amidst the ongoing COVID pandemic and the greatest supply chain crunch Australia has ever seen, Patrick Terminals is willing to throw a spanner in the works of Australian port operations by cancelling their entire workforce’s Employment Agreement and forcing an unprecedented return to the basic Award. This would have a catastrophic impact on shifts, productivity and put an end to 24 hour operations at Patrick’s terminals in Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne and Perth.
The Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) is appalled by these threats, as they would see Australian supply chains grind to a halt and the flow of vital household goods evaporate in an instant.
The MUA has concluded Enterprise Agreements with the entire stevedoring industry apart from Patrick Terminals, who are willing to hold their workforce and the Australian community hostage as they seek to gouge greater profits. The Union is not seeking anything more from Patricks than has already been agreed to by other stevedoring companies.
Against a backdrop of sustained lies and vilification of their own workforce in the lead up to Christmas, the stevedoring company is pushing ahead with its application before the Fair Work Commission to force its entire workforce on to the basic Award.
The current Employment Agreement provides penalty rates, shift allowances and overtime provisions to enable 24 hour, 7 day operations at container terminals around the country, to ensure Australian imports and exports keep moving at all hours of the day or night. The basic Award would force workers and the stevedoring company to observe traditional 35 hour work weeks during ordinary business hours, which would more than halve the capacity of Patricks Terminals’ national operations.
“This would be the ultimate example of cutting off your nose to spite your face. The Australian community cannot tolerate this kind of belligerent, aggressive and reckless approach to industrial relations at this critical time,” Mr Crumlin said.
If Patrick Terminals are successful in their application to abolish the existing Enterprise Bargaining Agreement, they will obliterate their own operational capacity by 80% at a time when the workforce is already impacted by COVID-19 isolation requirements and severe global supply chain bottlenecks.
The MUA is seeking nothing more than job security around hours of work and rosters, guaranteed pathways to permanent jobs and the same wage outcomes as other Australian stevedoring workforces, consistent with the rest of the industry. This provides for stability within the workforce and guaranteed productivity.
This comes in a context of record profits for Patrick Terminals’ parent company and shareholders during the preceding 12 months, massive executive bonuses and new or expanded contracts signed by major shipping clients despite the COVID-19 pandemic and the implementation of significant and lasting workplace biosecurity protocols that keep stevedoring workers safe and mitigate the risk of virus transmission at Australia’s international seaports.
On 6 January 2022, Patrick Terminals also updated their pricing structure for international shipping clients, with Landside Import Container Tariffs at some ports increasing by 20%.
“Ordinary Australians should be disgusted to learn that a rogue stevedoring company is trying to gouge consumers and business with one hand while ripping off their own employees with the other,” Mr Crumlin said.
Likewise, the stock market will be horrified by the actions of the board and the revenue impact for Patrick Terminals’ parent companies, Qube and Brookfield, of a potential 80% reduction in operating capacity. This will obviously have a significant impact on shareholder value and dividend payments if management’s threats are carried through. It would also bring into focus Qube and Brookfield’s ESG values – Environmental, Social and Governance measures – and could prompt ethical investors to divest from the company.
In a recent submission to the Fair Work Commission, Patrick Terminals have indicated that they would consider mass sackings of stevedoring workers who refused to work night-shift or on weekends at reduced rates of pay, which would be the case in a return to the Award. This comes at the same time as the supply chain is under tremendous duress as workers isolate and miss shifts due to COVID exposure. The cumulative impact would be absolutely devastating.
“Australian supply chains would grind to a halt, with ships sitting alongside the wharf for weeks at a time waiting to be worked while Patrick Terminals’ management pursues its own self-interest,” Mr Crumlin said.
“The bullying of a loyal workforce that has already proven its commitment to their employer would not pass muster at any other Australian company, and this conduct doesn’t provide the certainty that Australia needs during an international supply chain crisis,” Mr Crumlin said.
Patrick Terminals cannot with any credibility tell any shipping company that they can service their vessels quickly or effectively until the court case which they’ve initiated, and which begins on Monday 17 January in the Fair Work Commission, is resolved.
The Fair Work Commission should send Patrick Terminals back to the negotiating table where this issue must be resolved.