On the waterfront.


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24-05-2011 07:30 PM



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24-05-2011 07:30 PM



24-05-2011 08:05 PM

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2011-05-24 19:30:51

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SALES, Leigh


DUFFY, Conor


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On the waterfront. -

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1998 revisited? The bitter industrial dispute threatening to once again cripple Australian ports.


LEIGH SALES, PRESENTER: Tomorrow could mark the start of the biggest dispute on the nation's
waterfront since the infamous 1998 showdown.

The Maritime Union is expected to start strike action that could extend to Sydney, Melbourne,
Brisbane and Fremantle. Once again, the company at the centre of the dispute is Patrick Stevedores.
The MUA has released a secret recording which appears to show a Patrick negotiator discussing a
plan to lock out workers.

The company denies it's planning that and says the industrial action has the potential to cause
serious economic damage to Australia.

Conor Duffy reports.

PAUL GARATY, DIRECTOR, PATRICKS: We'll be unable to service our clients from Wednesday, tomorrow,
for seven days, so we won't see any container ships, imports or exports leaving across the wharf.
So effectively we've nearly got 50 per cent of Australia's capacity on their waterfront locked up
for seven days.

PADDY CRUMLIN, MARITIME WORKERS UNION: There are critical issues, safety. We've lost more wharfies
in the last three to four years in this company and in other stevedoring companies in the country
than we've lost since the war in terms of relative numbers.

JOHN BUCHANNAN, ECONOMIST, UNIVERSITY OF SYDNEY: The MUA is probably the best organised and one of
the most sophisticated unions in the country. They are very skilled at knowing how to put work bans
in place that hurt the employer but minimise damage to the public. They're not fools.

(Footage of striking wharfies in 1998)

CONOR DUFFY, REPORTER: It's been touted as the biggest wharf war since the 1998 waterfront dispute,
a six-month battle that is remembered as one of the most bitter in the nation's history.

(Striking workers throw themselves against a chain link fence)

Patrick Stevedores' attempt to replace its workforce saw violent clashes on the docks, guard dogs
patrolling the wharves, and chaos for the national economy.

From tomorrow, the Maritime Union of Australia plans to return to the picket lines in a move the
company says will effectively shut down its operations in Brisbane and Sydney.

Action is planned to start a day later in Fremantle and a go-slow is already in place at the
company's Melbourne docks.

PAUL GARATY: We've got 35 ships that will be affected and some 35,000 containers.

I think there is a lot of other impacts as well. We'll see small transport operators who rely on
the wharf for their livelihood unable to make any money during that period.

CONOR DUFFY: Patrick's director Paul Garaty says the unions are holding the company and the nation
to ransom by refusing to accept a 15 per cent pay rise over three years that includes some
productivity offsets.

PAUL GARATY: So the union have entered this negotiation with an increase in mind which would cost
us in the order of $45 million. After eight months of negotiation they've reduced that claim to $30
million, which still represents an increase per employee of around $30,000, which is something that
we just can't entertain.

PADDY CRUMLIN: (scoffs) Spin! You know, this is a light and deft touch, if that's what wharfies
have. We could take- we've got the option to take much more strenuous and robust industrial action,
but we've foregone that. We want an agreement.

CONOR DUFFY: MUA stalwart Paddy Crumlin says the union has asked for an 18 per cent pay deal over
three years, but says the dispute is also about safety.

These pay negotiations have been ongoing for eight months, but today they took a dramatic turn.

In one of the most unusual twists in a recent industrial dispute, the MUA released a recording
level left on a union official's phone by Patrick's negotiator and former MUA officer Mick O'Leary.
Mr O'Leary's 2-year-old niece accidentally dialled the union official's phone and message bank
recorded Mick O'Leary apparently discussing plans to lock out Patricks workers:

(Excerpt from message bank recording)

AUTOMATED VOICE: Received 15th May, at 1 pm

(garbled background noise)

VOICE OF MICK O'LEARY: We're going to lock them out. We're going to lock them out, everywhere.
We're going to shut the business down for a month.

PADDY CRUMLIN: Naive, amateurish, bully-boy tactics. Those things don't really impress us. He
should know that, more than anyone. It's just really ridiculous.

PAUL GARATY: Look, under the Fair Work Act, the position is that a company can legally lock out,
use the lockout, the same as unions can use protected action.

CONOR DUFFY: Today, the director of Patrick, Paul Garaty, didn't rule out locking out the workers,
but said the company had made no moves to do so, and hoped to reach a resolution.

PAUL GARATY: We will be at Fair Work today. We'll be trying to get the union back in terms of a
conciliation and arbitration process. I think this is just theatre on the side.

CONOR DUFFY: Will Mick O'Leary be disciplined?

PAUL GARATY: No, I don't think Mick O'Leary will be disciplined - or his niece. I think this is
just a little bit of theatre on the side.

CONOR DUFFY: Economist John Buchanan says the outcome of this dispute could set a trend for other
industrial negotiations

JOHN BUCHANNAN: The employers are trying to show what they can get away with under the new Act.
They are seeing if they can strike unions down on certain things - and equally, unions are showing
their relevance. They are showing that by organising and taking effective action, they can deliver
for their members.

(Footage of unconscious worker from 1998 strikes)

CONOR DUFFY: Both sides want to leave the bitter legacy of the 1998 dispute behind them, and are
hopeful a last-minute negotiation may at least delay tomorrow's action.

But publicly, the rhetoric remains feisty.

PADDY CRUMLIN: They're devaluing the work of these men and women that go out every day and lay
their lives on the line, and it is a dangerous industry.

PAUL GARATY: Well, I think they're certainly intent on making it difficult for Patrick, upsetting
our business, and also damaging Australia's international reputation.

LEIGH SALES: Conor Duffy with that report.