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PATRICK Terminals’ rail capacity at its Sydney AutoStrad has been reduced by 25% at Sydney due to increasing and ongoing industrial action.

The Maritime Union of Australia’s industrial action at Patrick’s Sydney operation now includes one-our stops each shift at 0500, 1300 and 2100 until 15 July.

A statement from the company said this development, combined with “refusal to work through meal breaks (general standard practice to enable operational continuity)”, is causing the 25% reduction in operational working time.

The company said this industrial action is impacting the Sydney rail service, as the timing of the stoppages mean that available operations within rail windows is limited.

Patrick said it has made adjustments to rail windows including reducing the capacity allocated from 4300 lifts per week to 3200 lifts per week during the period, with the cancellation of 12 of 56 windows. The company said it would seek to re-instate the rail windows as soon as possible.

“We have engaged with all rail operators early to provide notice and assistance to work through the disruption, however, there will be an impact on customers,” the company said.

“Patrick Terminals will continue to work closely with rail operators to minimise disruption and provide options to maximise throughput during this period of industrial action by the MUA.”

The company said it continues to engage with the MUA in an effort to provide relief to the “onerous” impacts of the industrial action, without success to date.

Patrick Terminals CEO Michael Jovicic said Patrick has held formal meetings with the MUA over the past 18 months in an effort to come to a mutually acceptable agreement.

“We believed that we were close to agreement when the MUA launched this completely unnecessary industrial action last month. I am concerned that one of the biggest harvests in recent years is now being threatened,” Mr Jovicic said.

“We are doing everything that we can to reach an agreement, but the MUA seems determined to disrupt the supply chain at this critical time in pursuit of their own demands.”

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Shippers’ reaction

Paul Zalai, director of Freight & Trade Alliance and secretariat to the Australian Peak Shippers Association said Patrick has made the “unilateral decision to cancel a significant proportion of rail windows from 24 June to 15 July 2021”.

“This action conducted without any consultation with exporters, will have devastating economic impacts on the New South Wales economy. We remain uncertain how much suffering is required before this action can be the prerequisite trigger required to again take proceedings before the commissions,” Mr Zalai said.

“Additional cost is one factor; however, a critical concern for the entire import and export supply-chain is that with a bumper season for the agriculture sector, container volumes will quickly mount at these transition points with the intermodals and empty container parks likely to very quickly become heavily congested.”

Mr Zalai said despite constructive engagement with government and port representatives there are no workable contingency measures in an environment whereby Patrick maintains their position of cancelled rail windows.

“We are now seeking an urgent meeting with Patrick executives, but we do not expect that they will deviate away from their position, nor are we confident that that they and the MUA are likely to settle their differences after what has been an extensive and prolonged negotiation,” Mr Zalai said.

FTA and APSA informed members today that the peak industry alliance is escalating its advocacy to the Attorney General for immediate FWC intervention and for the federal government to initiate a broader review on waterfront industrial relations.

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