Markt visie Day 107 of the waterfront dispute Australia, being an island, relies for about 80 percent of its international trade on the efficient handling of the cargo at the nation's wharves. The handling of containers on the Australian waterfront however is not very productive nor reliable, both due to the power of the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA), which has a monopoly on the labour supply in the ports. Patrick Stevedoring, the biggest stevedore in Australia decided to deal with this issue by sacking their whole workforce to improve the workpractises: Waterfront Reform in Australia. Marion Kloos As a stevedore, your customers are the shipping lines, which berth at your wharves. The premium selling points for a stevedore are 1) the efficient loading and discharging of their customer's ship; 2) a reliable operation and 3) the avai lability of berth space. When we translate this into internal measures the terminal 's objective will be to 'work the ship' within the specified time frame for the lowest possible costs. If the sh ipping line wants to have their ship sai ling at 4pm on Monday, and you achieve that, you have a happy customer, and that's what it's all about! Patrick Stevedoring tries to improve the quality and the service level to their customers on a continuous base. With only marginal improvements to be achieved, there seemed to be only one way to substantially increase its performance: rethink the workpractises. With labour costs of 63% of the total revenue, this seemed to be a valid point. Starting off with discussing this issue with the MUA, Patrick soon discovered that the MUA was not wi lling to improve workpractises without achieving any significant benefits for their members. Instead, they directed their members to go on a ' go slow' to show Patrick their power to ' make or break' the company. After years of negotiations, Patrick decided that there was only one way out: breaking the union 's monopoly on the supply of labour. Waterfront Reform It all started of with training of exarmy personnel at the Port of Dubai. When the union discovered that Patrick was involved m this operation, they went on a national strike, day 1 of the waterfront dispute. Although nobody knew what was coming up next, it was war between the two camps, the Union and Patrick. When the ' Dubai-exercise' failed, Patrick fo und a willing partner in the National Farmers Federation (NFF). They leased some of Patrick's land and equipment and started training their own non-union labour force. Backed up by the government who had ' Waterfront Reform' as a priority on their list, it was quite clear who was supporting who in this dispute. It all went out of hand when Patrick decided to sack all its wharfies (dockworkers) and replace them with non union labour who were trained 18 by the NFF at the 7th of April 1998. It was about midnight when security guard came in to remove everybody from Patrick's wharves, not without any resistance of course! Two days later the new workforce came in and took over. A new company started! This new company hired the labour that was trained by the NFF and started at Patrick terminals around the country. A prosperous future, with a workforce eager to work under the new work practises. In the meanwhile, the wharfies set up pickets outside the gates for their so called ' Peaceful Assembly'. By doing this, they denied truck access to the terminal and limited the opportunity for Patrick to receive or deliver containers via the gate. The question that everybody then asked was quite clear: ' What is this all about?' The answer however is not that clear. Different parties have different objectives. The NFF wants to lower the costs of handling their products at the nation 's wharves. Patrick's wants to improve their performance and reduce their costs. The government wants to make Australia's waterfront competitive with other ports all over the world. And last, but certainly not least, the MUA, they want to secure their member's jobs at the Australian waterfront.
And that's what it is all about! The number of jobs at the waterfront! Because more jobs for the same amount of work implies higher cost, lower productivity, and nothing like 'best practices' . Imagine an industry where the union dictates the workpractises and decides how many men are needed to do the job. Having one crane and two drivers does imply that each of them can only work half of the time they are actually at work. Double-time-and-ahalf on the weekends makes it hard to run a 24-hour operation competitively. And what about a straddle driver earning A$90,000 a year. ... while he effectively works less 50 percent of the time he is being paid for! Patrick thus ended up having an operation where there were too many Marion Kloos down under. .. men to do the job and a low occupancy rate of their equipment. The new labour force that came in worked on different contracts with different work practises. Not yet as effective as the old wharfies, but very promising .... This was however not yet the end of the MUA. They went to court, and in the end the High Court decided that Patrick had to reinstate the old workforce. The MUA claimed victory and was stronger than ever before! But Patrick claimed that the old company was not viable anymore, so the judge decided to assign an administrator to see if he could get the company back up runnmg agam. As the wharfies wa lked back in the gates, the showed what they were capable of. Crane rates of 30 If Juli 1998 containers per hour were achieved (previously 18), while the MUA always claimed that that was impossible with the equipment provided to them (although some of Patrick's terminals are around the most advanced terminals in the world). The average moves per straddle went up 25 percent and the wharfies showed a positive working attitude. So, the MUA is back at the table, negotiating the workpractises with Patrick. Knowing that there is a nonunion workforce out there, eager to take over their jobs, discussing real waterfront reform to bring the Australi an waterfront at the level of world 's best practice.