Patrick Stevedoring has been fined $180,000 by the Melbourne Magistrates Court after being found guilty of discriminating against an OHS representative for raising safety issues on the job.
More than 12 months ago, a former Patrick employee and Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) safety representative at Geelong Port was suspended, reprimanded and threatened with the sack for raising safety breaches where workers' lives were at risk.
Accordingly, the Court found in favour of WorkSafe Victoria on three of five charges under section 76 of the Victorian Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004.
While Patrick insists that it supports "all safety improvement endeavours", the ACTU said safety issues are a key point of dispute in current enterprise bargaining negotiations between the MUA and Patrick, including lack of training and high casualisation at bulk and general operations.
"At Patrick, a health and safety representative raised legitimate concerns about safety in Geelong and was hounded out of a job by a management culture that puts profits ahead of the health and safety of workers," said ACTU president Ged Kearney.
The ruling was a warning to all employers that health and safety representatives have a legitimate role and should not be intimidated or discriminated against for raising concerns, Kearney said.
"This ruling against Patrick should be a wake-up call to all Australian employers, who often behave with impunity, and we call on all regulators around Australia to more vigorously prosecute employers who discriminate against health and safety representatives," said Kearney.