The Guardian July 4, 2001


Patrick's Enterprise Agreement:
The battle continues

by Warren Smith

Negotiations are underway between the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) and 
Patrick Stevedoring for a new Enterprise Agreement (EA) at Patrick 
facilities nationwide. This is the first EA to be negotiated between 
Patrick and the MUA since the agreement between the two parties that arose 
out of the massive 1998 waterfront dispute.

The company represented by anti-union zealot and class warrior Chris 
Corrigan and his attack dog Bill Clayton are out after more conditions from 
the workers. The outcome of the negotiations will be a major determining 
factor in all forthcoming agreements on the waterfront. Both Corrigan and 
Clayton played a major role in the conspiracy to oust MUA labour from the 
waterfront.

Corrigan and Clayton have gone straight for the jugular with attacks on 
permanency. They are obviously happy to see more casual workers on the 
waterfront with no job security and complete irregularity of employment. 
The company has announced labour surpluses in a number of ports including 
Sydney and Brisbane.

The MUA have, to their credit rejected the Patrick's claims of redundancy 
due to surpluses and are determined to maintain and strengthen the position 
in relation to permanency. The MUA are seeking to eliminate the 
supplementary (totally casual) and Guarantee Wage Employee (GWE guaranteed 
two days a week) forms of labour and have within the document only 
permanent and Permanent Part Time (PPT  guaranteed 35 hours a week) 
categories. The elimination of supplementary employment in particular would 
be a good victory for the union.

The union is also seeking to have rosters implemented that will 
significantly reduce the irregular component within working cycles. The 
workers on the waterfront at present suffer from extremely flexible rosters 
that have severe implications for their health and safety and their family 
and social lives.

Another positive step is an in-principle agreement that the workers in the 
conventional stevedoring area at Darling Harbour and the terminal area at 
Port Botany will be pooled and will service both areas.

There is also a planned facility to clean and prepare imported cars prior 
to their removal from the waterfront that will come under the terms of the 
EA and will be worked by MUA labour. This is a small step away from the 
excessive breaking up of the workforce employed by the same company that 
has occurred in recent times. It is not yet a challenge to the negative 
concept of Enterprise employment but is a step in the right direction, 
which can also hopefully be implemented at other companies.

The likely outcome of the negotiations at this stage is unknown, as there 
are still considerable differences between the parties. No formal 
bargaining period has been entered into at this stage so there is no 
indication of any protected action being taken. Whether action will be 
considered in the future is also unknown.

If the company continues to pedal a hard line and insists upon further job 
losses and reductions in conditions, there may be no alternative but to 
enter into a bargaining period and taking firm industrial action. Various 
kinds of coordinated action upon the jobs could also be used to sway the 
employers.

What can be guaranteed is that in dealing with the likes of Corrigan the 
MUA negotiating team, which has considerable rank and file participation, 
is in for a hard time. Corrigan's offsider, former P&O employee Clayton, 
has a poor reputation amongst the workers and the union and will be out to 
serve his master with the best possible outcome for the company.

The best possible outcome for the company is of course the worst possible 
outcome for the workers. The importance of these negotiations is paramount 
for all workers on the waterfront and it is essential that gains be made 
for the Patrick workers lest the employers drive the whole industry toward 
a race to the bottom.

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