Early in the evening yesterday*, the shipping and trade industries were stunned by news of a sweeping range of aggressive strikes by the Maritime Union of Australia. A series of rolling 12 hour strikes are due every Monday, Wednesday and Friday for the first two weeks of November.
There are also a sweeping range of other bans. These include numerous stoppages of one hour, of four hours, and of eight hours. Also banned is overtime, shift extensions, working on subcontracted ships, and employees attending work when rostered as “off/avail”. There are also bans on the performance of work for upgrades.
And this in the run-up to Christmas!
The purpose, of course, is to cause as much disruption as possible. Container terminals are the vital freight interface between land and sea and, of course, all containers flow through them. Disruption at the main capital city container terminals causes disruption for ships, ports, warehousing, trucking, rail and logistics of all kinds. For the everyday consumer it means there will be disruption to the stock that retailers want to put on their shelves for Australians to buy. So its no exaggeration to say that strikes of this magnitude, at this time of year could disrupt your Christmas.
On the ocean shipping side, industrial action like this causes delay. The current industrial action is causing delays of between one to eight days. The exact length of delay varies by location.
The costs to the ocean shipping companies – which are third parties – are immense. The current cost of one-day sailing cost of a 4,000 TEU to 5,000 TEU ship (a size that frequently calls in Australian ports) is currently about AUD$232,500 a day!**
A good deal
Patrick Terminals is, indeed, offering a very good deal to its workforce.
Patrick has offered the following to the MUA over the past 12 months:
- 2.5% year on year increase for four years
- Guaranteed job security with no forced redundancies
- Commitment to preserving jobs with a focus on permanent roles
- Caps on usage of casual labour
It’s great offer on top of an already fantastic set of conditions:
|Days worked per year||Pay |
(includes bonuses, overtime)
|Australian adult worker (e.g. an office worker) median income from employment||233||$50,861*|
|Percent difference between the typical wharfie and the average Australian adult worker||Typical wharfie |
works 26% fewer days than other Australians
|Average wharfie is |
paid 104% more than other Australians
Source: stevedore working days and pay data – Patrick Terminals; Australian Bureau of Statistics for the median salary. Note: office worker days of work calculated as follows: (((5×52)-7)-20)) where seven days is the number of public holidays and 20 days is an amount of annual leave. The final row is percent difference and is not percent increase.
Percent difference is calculated as (((value 1-value 2) / ((v1+v2)/2)) x100).
Patrick has been negotiating with the MUA since February last year and has held more than 70 meetings in search of a new enterprise agreement. The MUA has launched in excess of 220 industrial action notifications against Patrick Terminals during the negotiation period.
Michael Jovicic, CEO Patrick Terminals said, “We have requested on multiple occasions that the MUA bargain without continuing their economically damaging industrial action. Now issuing 19 new industrial notifications of rolling 12-hour strike actions every Monday, Wednesday and Friday in the coming fortnight at our already struggling Melbourne terminal is frankly bewildering. Our terminal is still working to recover from reduced labour availability due to recent COVID-19 cases and this industrial action will result in significant delays. Every Australian will feel the impact on the retail shelves across the next two months due to this selfish behaviour”.
Shipping Australia CEO Melwyn Noronha added: “Borders are opening, there’s a bit of optimism in the air and people are looking forward to Christmas and yet, once again, the unions are intervening to wreck the holidays for Australians in pursuit of its own selfish agenda. This is not about workers’ rights; wharfies are very highly paid and they get far more leave than most workers. Australia is plagued with ongoing industrial action. It seems that as soon as one stops, another starts.
“Ultimately, this hurts the Australian economy, which means it hurts everyday Australians. It’s about time that there is a sustainable solution to these frequent, repeated and ongoing disputes on the waterfront. There needs to be some controls so that waterfront disputes are sensibly resolved in a speedy timeframe,” said Shipping Australia CEO, Melwyn Noronha.
* Monday 25 October, 2021
** The one-day cost is calculated from publicly available figures. The underlying data changes frequently. Figure is current as of 22 October 2021.