Eric Charlton

Eric Charlton

Former Minister for Transport

    Unionists called on to withdraw blockade at Fremantle Port

    4/05/1998 12:00 AM



    Transport Minister Eric Charlton today called on unionists and their supporters to withdraw the blockade at the Port of Fremantle following today's High Court ruling against Patrick's.


    "We have seen the law of the jungle prevail at Fremantle over the past three weeks and the moment has arrived for the MUA and other protesters to withdraw and abide by the law," Mr Charlton said.


    "Following the High Court decision it now becomes a commercial issue between Patrick employees and the administrator of the employment companies. A normal shift generally comprises about 22 people.


    "There can be no justification for continuing the massive blockade which has disrupted an entire precinct at Fremantle Harbour and Rous Head.


    "We have seen anarchy take over with streets being illegally blocked by vehicles and citizens intimidated by self-appointed union marshals as they tried to go about their lawful business."


    Mr Charlton said it was imperative that law and order be restored and that people in the general vicinity of the Patrick's terminal be able to move around without fear.


    "We must all abide by the decision of the High Court - and that includes the union movement - but the question over the solvency of the Patrick's employment companies remains," he said.


    "It should not be forgotten in this issue that Patrick's stevedoring operations were running at a significent loss, caused largely by inefficient work practices imposed by the MUA.


    "It seems pretty obvious that modifications to the MUA work practices must be made if companies like Patrick are to survive.


    "In this crisis dozens of family businesses are suffering badly, especially importers who need goods to sustain vital cashflows."


    Mr Charlton said he had been advised that non-union workers hired by Patrick's had vacated the Fremantle terminal following the High Court ruling.


    "The MUA initiated actions in the Federal Court over the dismissal of workers and have had the ruling there confirmed in the High Court," he said.


    Mr Charlton said the onus was on the MUA and other unionists and supporters to abide by all areas of the law and end the Fremantle blockade.


    Media contact: Doug Cunningham 9321 7333