The Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) and Patrick Terminals have come to a ceasefire after the union agreed to terminate industrial actions until 10 December.
In return, the container operator also withdrew its application to the Fair Work Commission (FWC), where it had claimed that the strikes were “causing significant issues in the economy”.
More than 70 meetings have taken place since this saga began in February 2020 as both sides tried to reach a new enterprise agreement. Throughout the negotiation period, the MUA has launched more than 220 industrial actions.
As a result of the withdrawal, Patrick Terminals is endeavouring to return to “normal on-schedule operations as quickly as possible.”
"The union is happy to see Patrick Terminals has finally returned to the negotiating table and looks forward to arriving at an agreement which both sides can be happy with," MUA assistant national secretary Jamie Newlyn said.
However, before the agreement was reached, Newlyn initially described Patrick’s application to the commission as “cynical opportunism”, contesting some of the claims put forward.
“By the admission of Patrick’s parent company in its recent annual report, business is booming,” Newlyn said.
According to Qube Holdings (ASX: QUB), which owns 50 per cent of Patrick Terminals, the terminal operator's distributions to its part-owner hit $120 million in FY21, compared to $20 million in FY20.
Patrick notes the strikes have impacted operations at Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne and Fremantle terminals, causing delays for importers and exporters.
“Since May, our terminals have faced an unrelenting barrage of ongoing industrial action by the MUA that has impacted all terminal users including importers, exporters and shipping lines,” Patrick Terminals CEO Michael Jovicic said .
The MUA believes the delays are caused by a myriad of issues.
“Whether it is a lack of freight rail capacity to remove containers quickly enough from the quay line, the greater carrying capacity of larger container ships requiring lengthier berthing times, or the simple economic reality of skyrocketing demand for international freight, any attempt by Patrick Terminals to blame its own workforce for capacity constraints or price hikes should be treated with suspicion,” said Newlyn.
In a report released by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, it found that delayed shipments and rising freight rates were causing pressure on Australian importers and exporters, leading to businesses being vulnerable.
The terminal operator will continue to engage with the MUA on a basis to finalise an enterprise agreement.
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