Monday, February 27, 2017

"The Patrick's Dispute" 1998 – MUA Here to Stay !

The Australian waterfront dispute of 1998 or "The Patrick's Dispute" as it's widely known as was a watershed event in Australian industrial relations history, in which the Patrick Corporation undertook an illegal restructuring of their operations for the purpose of increasing the productivity of their workforce.

This dispute involved Patrick Corporation and in particular Patrick CEO Chris Corrigan locking out their workers after the restructuring had taken place, with many of these workers members of the dominant Maritime Union of Australia (MUA). The resulting dismissal and locking out of their unionised workforce was supported and backed by the then Australian Liberal / National Coalition Government.

Major events in the dispute occurred in four major ports, where the Patrick Corporation had significant operations, Melbourne, Brisbane, Fremantle and Sydney. It revolved around attempts by Patrick Corporation and the federal government to improve efficiency on Australia's wharves; primarily by reducing staffing numbers and the power of the Maritime Union of Australia.

The case went before the Federal Court with Justice North finding in favour of the Maritime Union of Australia. He found that the company had deliberately restructured their corporate structure with the sole intent to dismiss their unionised workforce. The company with the support of the government appealed this decision to the full bench of the Federal Court which upheld Justice North's earlier decision. The company appealed to the High Court of Australia with the government's support. The full bench of the High Court found once again in the MUA's favour. 

MUA Here To Stay!

Addendum – Peter Reith, the Minister for Industrial Relations, and one of the architects of the Parick's Dispute became unelectable in his Safe Seat in Melbourne and has not stood for election since.  He had been touted as a likely future liberal Prime Minister of Australia. 

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