Union action could risk medicine shortages

Ongoing industrial action at Sydney’s Port Botany could trigger shipping delays and medicine shortages, the Therapeutic Goods Administration says.

Wharfies at the Patrick Terminal in Port Botany have been undertaking industrial action for about a month, in protest at the company’s plan to scrap a number of workplace conditions.

That action has consisted of a single four-hour stoppage of work and a ban on overtime, Maritime Union of Australia national secretary Paddy Crumlin told AAP.

But the TGA has briefed the federal government on concerns held by four medical suppliers that the industrial action could impact on medical supplies.

“There is concern that there is potential for the industrial action, if it continues, to delay supplies,” a spokesperson told AAP in a statement.

“This could result in medicine shortages but also affect the quality of goods held in containers on the waterfront, particularly those with low temperature storage requirements.”

Media reports of current delays and shortages are false, it says.

“All four companies… have confirmed today that there is no immediate impact on medicine supplies,” the spokesperson said.

Port Botany, where the Patrick Terminal is located, handles 99 per cent of all container movements into and out of NSW.

The MUA says any delays at the Patrick Terminal are a result of the company’s mismanagement, not union action.

“None of the limited, legal forms of industrial action undertaken by wharfies are capable of causing the massive delays claimed without evidence,” Mr Crumlin told AAP in a statement.

“Our members worked throughout the COVID crisis to keep the economy ticking over.

“Rather than reward workers, the efforts of workers during this crisis, Patrick is attempting to impose wholesale cuts to terms and conditions of employment.”

The union ended industrial action at the Port Botany facilities of another terminal operator, DP World, earlier this month, after the company agreed to continue good-faith negotiations on an enterprise agreement.

DP World has since reached an in-principle deal with the union.

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