“ENOUGH is enough,” Patrick Terminals CEO Michael Jovicic said on Tuesday as the company lodged an application with the Fair Work Commission to terminate its enterprise agreement with the Maritime Union of Australia.
A statement from the company said the agreement is no longer fit for purpose, as it contains what it says are operational restrictions that have limited Patrick’s ability to meet customer requirements at a time of congestion in global supply chains.
“We have presented the MUA with an attractive national offer on top of their already very generous agreement including a 10% pay increase across four years coupled with protections addressing concerns over the use of casuals and job security,” Mr Jovicic said.
“Negotiations have been ongoing for close to two years and frankly there seems to be no agreement to be had, particularly in Sydney, where the union is still demanding we hire from a selected list of family and friends.”
The CEO said, “We are at the end of the road and need to have an agreement with our employees that works for our customers, and that allows us to remain competitive in the future market.”
The company’s statement said terminating the agreement will allow it to recruit and train employees without needing the agreement of the union and remove any “friends and family” union imposed restrictions.
“The world has changed, and we need to be able to recruit and promote the best people for the job rather than be hamstrung by antiquated union-led processes and policies that restrict our business,” Mr Jovicic said.
“Our market share and business operations have suffered due to this relentless industrial campaign by the MUA and their insidious jobs-for-the-boys stance. We need to provide our customers with operational certainty and that includes a workable agreement with our employees. Our customers are demanding that we take action to resolve this situation.”
Patrick Terminals said it has guaranteed not to change leave entitlements, salaries and other rates of pay that are applicable under the enterprise agreement for employees for a period of six months from the date of any termination order.
The company said it had requested an expedited hearing of this application with the Fair Work Commission.
MUA national secretary Paddy Crumlin said Patrick’s course of action is “poor form” and “another example of the corporate arrogance and hubris by Patrick’s senior management that has prevented earlier resolution of the few issues in our contract negotiations with them”.
“Their announcement demonstrates a contempt for their employees. These are all hard working, proud workers who deliver for the Patrick Terminal business without complaint every day in the face of the enormous and debilitating conditions of COVID-19,” Mr Crumlin said.
“This attack in the Fair Work Commission amounts to bullying and intimidation. It is being done in such a way as to try to defame the workforce in a most disgraceful fashion by distorting public perceptions of a legally sanctioned bargaining process.”
Mr Crumlin said the disagreements between the two parties are easily resolved and have been achieved with other stevedoring companies “without them resorting to this type of character assassination”.
“To seek to undermine the negotiations in this way at this critical time degrades the legitimate rights and needs of workers and their families, along with those same rights and needs in the wider working community,” he said.
Mr Crumlin said MUA members are seeking fair pay and job security at a time when “the Patrick Terminals business is enjoying spectacular growth in cargo volumes”.
“Workers and their representatives will be at the bargaining table tomorrow where this negotiation deserves to be, discharging our responsibilities in bargaining with respect and professionalism with the company regardless of this pointless and damaging provocation,” Mr Crumlin said.
The MUA on Monday announced a new round of protected industrial action at Patrick’s Melbourne terminal, including 12 hours of work stoppages for three days a week for the first fortnight in November. At the same time, the union gave notice of a 24-hour work stoppage at the Port Botany terminal on 2 November, Melbourne Cup Day.
This article has been updated to include comment from the MUA.