Patrick workers protest over union rights



BRISBANE — On November 17, maintenance workers who had been contracted to the Patrick stevedoring company set up a "community protest camp" opposite the wharf at Fishermen's Island, Port of Brisbane, to protest victimisation of their Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) delegate and another worker in the change of contractors at the site

According to Mark Szegedi, an electrician and one of the two workers sacked by Patrick, the rest of the members of the maintenance gang had refused to accept the new contract until he and union delegate Sean Bolton were re-employed. "Patrick is the puppet master in this dispute", Szegedi told Green Left Weekly.

A similar dispute is occurring at the Port Botany wharf in Sydney, with the dispute threatening to escalate into a major battle over union rights at Patrick, with echoes of the historic maritime dispute of 1998.

"The issue is an attempt to de-unionise Patrick again. Anybody who puts their hand up as a union delegate will be sacked at the first opportunity", Szegedi said. Workers at the protest camp explained that the more general issue is one of casualisation of the industry, with many workers having 10 to 15 years' casual employment, but no access to annual or long service leave.

MUA state secretary Mick Carr said on November 21 that talks were continuing with the employers on a new offer, but that no settlement had been accepted by the workers at that stage.

From Green Left Weekly, November 26, 2003.
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