Aussie unions and carriers return to the negotiating table

Port of Melbourne

A two-day Australian Fair Work Commission (FWC) hearing due to start in today has been cancelled following an agreement between the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) and Patrick Terminals to start new negotiations.

According to carrier representatives, Shipping Australia Limited (SAL) the FWC was due to begin deliberations whether to grant Patrick Terminal’s request to suspend all industrial action, but the two sides have agreed to new talks with a deadline for reaching agreement on 1 December. The latest talks follow a similar development in negotiations, which ended in agreement earlier this month between the union and DP World Australia.

Patrick Terminals had rejected a similar approach agreed by the unions with DP World Australia on1 October, but the terminal operator has now agreed to more talks.

“On Friday 23 October, the MUA provided undertakings to the Fair Work Commission which committed the union to not organise or notify any industrial action against Patrick Terminals before 1 December 2020. Patrick Terminals noted, however, that there is the possibility of further protected industrial action by the MUA after 1 December 2020,” said SAL.

As a result of this new agreement Patrick Terminals has said it has “withdrawn its section 424 application to suspend or terminate industrial action,” and the FWC has revoked its interim order suspending industrial action.

As a result of this latest move, the terminal operator and the unions will negotiate for three days a week up until the December cut-off date.

Patrick Terminals has said that its focus now is to clear the backlog of containers that has developed due to the long-running dispute in Sydney and Melbourne and to work towards resuming normal operations.

Commenting on the latest developments, Rod Nairn, CEO of Shipping Australia, said: “We welcome the news of a cessation of industrial action until December. For the next month Patrick terminals will be working productively with shipping lines to reduce the container backlog.”

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