Australian farmers outraged by a union wharf blockade are ready to drive trucks through waterfront picket lines to move their goods to market, rural leaders said Monday.
Meanwhile, the Victoria state Supreme Court ordered the Maritime Union of Australia and its supporters to abandon picket lines on the Melbourne docks.The union dodged a previous restraining order by inviting other unions and sympathizers to join the picket lines. But it has few legal options left to prevent trucks and trains from loading and unloading at the Patrick stevedore terminals in Melbourne.
National Farmers Federation president Don McGauchie said farmers were ready to break the blockade on major ports to prevent their crops from rotting.
"Farmers all around the country are saying they want to do something," he said.
The United Graziers Association backed the claim. Cattlemen's Union president Keith Adams said there was "overwhelming support" from beef producers. Queensland Graingrowers Association president Ian Macfarlane said: "We'll do whatever it takes to get the produce moving again."
Patrick, one of Australia's biggest stevedoring companies, triggered the dispute by locking out all 1,400 of its unionized workers almost two weeks ago as part of a drive to increase efficiency.
The Federal Court in Sydney is expected to decide this week whether Patrick acted illegally and must rehire the workers.
Patrick says it no longer needs half its employees. It has announced plans to close terminals in Newcastle, Sydney, Townsville and Burnie.
The Maritime Union of Australia picket lines have been mostly successful in keeping trucks and trains from dropping off or picking up cargo, leaving $130 million in goods piling up on the docks.