COVID outbreak at Patrick’s Melbourne Terminal

The Global Shipping Crisis continues with COVID outbreak at Patrick’s Melbourne Terminal

There’s been another turn of events in the dispute between Patrick Terminals and the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA).  MUA’s planned industrial action, which included 40 strikes in Melbourne’s terminal alone, came to a halt after an employee tested positive for COVID-19 last Friday (1st October). 

Following this case, which identified 22 close contacts and 31 casual contacts, MUA announced on Wednesday (6th October) that they had withdrawn all industrial action that was planned at the Melbourne Terminal, and that “industrial action will cease to take effect” that night, until further notice. 

The strikes at the Melbourne terminal were set to take place as 12-hours stoppages on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays for the duration of October, as well as a ban on overtime and shift extensions.

But while action has ceased for now, it’s certainly not business as usual, with the Melbourne terminals now forecasting significant delays for both import and export cargo. 

This is largely due to the impact of close and casual contacts now in 14-day isolation, who, according to the CEO of Patrick Terminals, Michael Jovicic, make up approximately 20% of the Melbourne workforce. 

The looming disruption to the supply chain is of increasing concern when considering Patrick’s terminals are responsible for 40 per cent of Australia’s container traffic. 

Why are the MUA striking?  

The union planned these protected industrial actions (PIAs) as a 19-month contractual dispute between the company and the union reached new tensions. 

Mr Jovicic said that Patrick has been negotiating with the union since February 2020 and has held nearly 70 meetings to finalise a new enterprise agreement. Which, according to the company, resulted in Patrick offering a 2.5 per cent annual pay increase for members over four years. 

Mr Jovicic also said that the strikes are set to have “ramifications” for all Australians, threatening to cripple imports ahead of Christmas. 

“The MUA’s actions are frankly bewildering. It seems to have completely lost the plot. This blatantly aggressive strike action demonstrates that it has no regard for the suffering of everyday Australians who have felt the impact of COVID-19 lockdowns, job losses and restrictions over the past 18 months,” he said. 

The Melbourne strikes are in addition to industrial action notices already served in Fremantle, Brisbane and Sydney. 

MUA assistant national secretary, Jamie Newlyn, said that the company was trying to “alarm the public” but suggesting Christmas is at risk. 

“Patrick employees are rightly frustrated at corporate tactics to deny a modest pay rise and remove previously agreed conditions on secure jobs,” he said. 

As always, we’ll be keeping a close eye on the situation and keeping our clients up to date with the latest news. If you’ve got any pressing concerns about these potential delays, make sure to contact us today.

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