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Friday, April 8, 2011

Maritime Union Strike

The Maritime Union of Australia has threatened a national walk-out of 2,000 wharf staff if Patrick Stevedores don't come back with a serious wages offer and agreement to improved working conditions. Today Patrick will take legal advice on how to stop it.

So what do the unions want? They initially wanted three annual pay rises of 10 per cent, a $5000 sign-on bonus for every worker, an increase in superannuation from 9 to 13 per cent, a $1500 'health and welfare' allowance and an extra week of annual leave which would give them six weeks a year. The company has offered an annual 4 per cent pay rise and will discuss the bonus if agreement is reached.

The union's national secretary, Paddy Crumlin said Patrick is trying to manipulate the Fair Work Act. "Patrick are seeking to use the Fair Work Act to get an artificial wages pause by not negotiating in good faith," he said. He thinks the company wants to stall negotiations as long as possible to delay paying increased wages.

As well as strikes, the union has won the right through Fair Work Australia to impose work bans for an indefinite period from tomorrow. Patrick said workers would be told tomorrow that they would not be paid if they intended to proceed with any bans which would affect 33 ships and 35,000 containers. Peter Reith who led the Howard government's strategy against the union in the 1998 waterfront dispute said these new strike threats showed that the Fair Work Act had given unions an "open invitation" to take industrial action.

The union's assistant national secretary, Mick Doleman said "Someone ought to remind Patrick that John Howard doesn't exist any more."