The wharfies’ union has given up veto rights over hiring decisions as part of a landmark deal with Patrick Terminals in which the stevedore will drop its bid to axe union pay and conditions and guarantee pay rises are not overtaken by inflation.
Patrick chief executive Michael Jovicic and Maritime Union of Australia national secretary Paddy Crumlin reached the 11th-hour deal just days before the stevedore’s application to terminate the union’s old agreement and send workers back to the award minimum was due to be heard on Monday 7 February.
It follows two years of industrial action at ports around the country that has caused significant disruption to supply chains during the pandemic and attracted the attention of the federal government.
The four-year agreement features a 4 per cent pay rise in the first year followed by pay rises of 2.5 per cent a year or CPI, whichever is higher, for the next three years until 2025.
The CPI-linked pay rise will probably result in annual pay rises climbing further given the Reserve Bank forecasts inflation to reach 3.25 per cent at the end of this year and 2.75 per cent for the next three years.
Permanent employees get a sign-on bonus of $3000 while casuals get $1500.
However, Patrick says the deal will also deliver significant changes to union recruitment controls, which the MUA in Sydney had sought to bolster in bargaining with hiring quota claims for workers’ family and friends.
Agreement ‘delivers flexibility’
A spokesman for Patrick Terminals said the stevedore was pleased with the outcome.
“The new agreement will see the removal of the ‘family and friends’ employment restrictions,” she said.
“Also, the new agreement has delivered other much needed flexibilities for the Patrick operations.”
She said Patrick Terminals “looks forward to the endorsement of the agreement by the MUA members and four years of stability on the waterfront”.
Prior to negotiation, Patrick could not recruit new employees unless it had the union’s agreement.
Under the deal, Patrick says all employment is now fully at its discretion, and it can recruit when it wants as per business needs without any approval by the union.
Deal still go to a members’ vote
Employment will also be based on the “best candidate for the job” rather than union-influenced selection.
Patrick says other changes will improve flexibility to service fluctuating shipping schedules.
In a letter to members over the weekend, the union said the parties had agreed to changes to protect roster composition and deeds for part-time employee conditions which it says will enhance workers’ job security.
The workers’ bargaining committee has endorsed the deal, but the changes are still subject to final drafting, and members have to vote.
MUA national assistant secretary Jamie Newlyn told members the outcomes were “in line with industry benchmarks at other Australian stevedoring companies” and delivered pay rises, job security assurances and “fairness and dignity” for workers.
“Importantly, this outcome means that Patrick Terminals’ planned court action, scheduled for Monday, February 7, to terminate the company’s existing employment agreement with over 1000 MUA members will no longer proceed subject to members endorsing the new agreement,” he said.
“This will provide job security and wage justice for Patrick Terminals’ stevedoring workers as well as improve certainty, operational continuity and ensure 24/7 operations at Patrick Terminals’ various ports during the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.”
Mr Newlyn said the deal was reached with the assistance of Fair Work Commissioner Bernie Riordan and included “representation at the highest level” from both sides.
Patrick’s termination application, while preserving wharfies’ pay for six months, threatened to wipe out decades of union conditions, including controls over recruitment, manning and rosters, and revert staff to the award conditions.
It started a rush of termination applications by major employers stuck in bargaining, including Qantas and tug boat giant Svitzer, that sought to rip up union controls.
Information sourced from here.