WATERFRONT DISPUTE;SYDNEY;980407;PHOTOGRAPH BY DEAN SEWELL;SMH;NEWS;PHOTOGRAPH SHOWS SECURITY GUARDS ASSEMBLING THEMSELVES AT PORT BOTANY PATRICK TERMINAL AROUND MIDNIGHT. Photo: Dean Sewell The dockside peace deal that saw the key waterfront union and one of Australia’s biggest shipping companies pledging to end years of running battles is under threat after just five months.
Tension between the Maritime Union of Australia and stevedoring giant Patrick are sharply rising again after the company accused its workers of illegal industrial activity at Sydney’s Port Botany terminal.
A stoush between the union and Patrick will reignite fears of yet another long-running dispute, the worst of which was the months-long 1998 waterfront dispute that impacted trade in Australia.
Shipping giant Patrick secured Federal Court orders last week to stop alleged industrial activity by 200 union members at Port Botany container terminal in Sydney. Those orders were again extended on Monday to May 1 when the matter will return to court.
The court orders reveal Patrick claims to have been hit with an alleged program of go-slows, stopworks and staff-led bans on certain tasks began last week.
It is alleged union members have been involved in unauthorised stopworks and have also allegedly stopped loading or unloading of trucks arriving at the rail yard of Port Botany terminal operated by Patrick.
Fairfax Media understands workers at the Port Botany allegedly refused to work on at least one entire day last week, though the full number of hours lost is at this stage unknown.
Sources said the matter could come to a head the next 24 to 48 hours when the next train arrives at the terminal and workers will have to choose whether to follow the court orders.
Union concerns centre on the recent sub-lease of a empty container park within Patrick Terminal to Patrick’s joint owner Qube. The Qube staff are not covered by the MUA’s workplace agreement.
Qube acquired a 50 per cent stake in Patrick following the takeover of Asciano in August 2016.
The dispute comes after the union and the company signed a landmark four-year workplace agreement in November last year which was trumpeted by both sides.
Already British singer Billy Bragg has thrown his support behind the union.
Representatives from the MUA declined to comment as the matter was before the courts.
Earlier in April, MUA Deputy National Secretary Will Tracey said the peace deal was now under “serious threat”.
“Why would Qube want to jeopardise future contracts at this commercially sensitive time by starting a dispute at this small container yard, when it is has just invested around $1 billion in Patrick’s and is seeking new business for its Moorebank Logistics Park?” Mr Tracey said at the time.
A Patrick spokesman said Patrick had been in talks with the national branch of the union since February.
Qube took out the sub-lease after rival DPWorld declined to extend the company’s existing sub-lease on land leased by DPWorld adjacent to that company’s Port Botany terminal.
“This sublease will be a short-term arrangement and no work currently performed by Patrick workers will be impacted by this arrangement now or in the future,” the spokesman said.
“Qube is currently building its own facility at another site, however this facility is not ready for operation as yet,” he added.