“Patrick’s management has resorted to its mean and tricky ways of 1998 with today’s shock announcement that it will sack more than half its Port Botany workforce,” the MUA said in a statement, following Patrick parent company Asciano’s announcement that 270 of its 511-strong Port Botany waterfront workforce will be made redundant by mid-2014 and replaced with automated technology.
MUA deputy national secretary Mick Doleman said the move is ideologically motivated and will decimate the workforce, while failing to deliver any benefits for shareholders and clients, and added:
This is an extraordinary sleight of hand tactic by Patrick’s management following a protracted 20-month wage negotiation that was only resolved recently.
The use of AutoStrad technology was never discussed in these negotiations. In fact, we were given explicit guarantees that all straddles would be fully manned.
The technology Patrick’s is introducing is unproductive and very expensive. This will not lift productivity, and will become a millstone around shareholders’ necks.
In Brisbane, where this technology is used, target box rates in the EBA are lower than elsewhere in the country.
This proves that this move is about ideology, not productivity. Patrick shareholders should be outraged at this move.
The MUA has a strong ally in the International Transport Federation, of which it is a member. Responding to the MUA warning that Australian port operator Patrick is planning to cut the workforce at Port Botany in half – just months after successful negotiations appeared to signal that all was well as the port.
ITF general secretary David Cockroft said:
This plan will be defeated.
Everything about this mass layoff smells, not least its timing. In 1998, when Patrick resorted to dirty tricks and one of the biggest attempts at union busting in Australian history, they were handed a bloody nose by the country’s workers and their compatriots abroad. We have always been aware that sooner or later they might try another desperate gamble.
The Patrick dispute was a watershed in Australian history, and in the history of the ITF, too. The lessons we learned then will be applied again now, until Patrick steps back from this latest attempt.
ITF president and MUA national secretary Paddy Crumlin said:
It’s not acceptable to fail to mention this extraordinary and well-planned action during some 20 months of negotiations and then inform the workforce via a press release.
Patrick management is reinforcing their contempt for genuine productivity and this action only reinforces why it was so difficult to reach an agreement over the period of negotiation. It’s of enormous concern that the company wants to continue to wage a war against their workforce, the same workforce that managed the severe impact of the global financial crisis on their commercial operations and have always dealt with them with honesty and forthrightness.
This is a political affront reflecting a cynical disregard for the human beings and their families who have underpinned the success of the company and not a commercial decision. It will be treated with the reciprocal contempt it deserves until a proper and mature conversation is established in place of this mass sacking by media release. The company has gone out of its way to terrorise their workforce and their families through the manner, timing and substance of this announcement.
In 1998, the ITF mobilised worldwide support for the MUA during the Patrick dispute, including persuading the rulers of Dubai to prohibit the use of camps in that country for the training of ex-Australian soldiers as strike-breakers.