A two-day hearing before the Fair Work Commission to terminate or suspend the Maritime Union of Australia’s industrial action at Patrick Terminals was cancelled earlier this week following an agreement for further talks between the parties.
On Friday 23 October, the MUA provided undertakings to the Fair Work Commission which committed the union to not organise or notify any industrial action against Patrick Terminals before 1 December 2020. Patrick Terminals noted, however, that there is the possibility of further protected industrial action by the MUA after 1 December 2020.
The parties also agreed to meet for three days each week ahead of this date in an attempt to reach agreement on a new enterprise agreement.
Given the commitments from the MUA, Patrick Terminals has withdrawn its section 424 application to suspend or terminate industrial action and the Fair Work Commission has revoked its interim order suspending industrial action.
In a statement, Patrick said that its focus is to clear the backlog of container cargo that has built up because of the MUA’s protected industrial action in Sydney and Melbourne and to work towards resuming normal operations.
Noting that Patrick Terminals is working closely with shipping lines to implement plans to change rotations and to reduce delays at terminals, the stevedore confirmed that their Brisbane and Fremantle Terminals are operating as normal, the delays at Melbourne have been reduced to five days and the delays in Sydney had been reduced to fifteen days, assisted by vessels by-passing the port.
Commenting on the latest developments, Rod Nairn, CEO of Shipping Australia, said: “We welcome the news of a cessation of industrial action until December. For the next month Patrick terminals will be working productively with shipping lines to reduce the container backlog.
“We can only hope that there is a reasonable conclusion to this latest round of discussions and that realistic expectations for wages and conditions prevail in the current challenging economic climate. It would be appalling, on top of everything else that has happened this year, if the union were to ruin Christmas for Australian families.
“Looking forward, it is in Australia’s vital national interests that no further nationally co-ordinated industrial action across the waterfront is ever allowed to hold Australia hostage. Shipping Australia calls for industrial relations reform to protect Australia’s vital international trade through our ports and across the waterfront,” Rod Nairn concluded.