Union and management blamed each other Thursday for the foul-up that allowed a stevedore to take home about $288,000 in wages over 20 years without lifting a finger to earn it.

"For 20 years he had been coming to work by taxi every morning, clocking in and then going home in the same taxi - and nobody noticed," Federal Industry Minister John Button said at a business conference.The Newcastle man, who was not named, picked up the equivalent of $288,000 over two decades at today's rates, according to industry estimates, for a job that no longer exists. No action will be taken against the loafer, officials said.

Waterside Labor Employers' Association spokesman Colin Coventry said the job for which the man was originally hired, knocking out a coupling pin on railroad cars during coal-loading operations, disappeared about 20 years ago.

Button said the con was typical of the problems in the Australian port industry. But Coventry denied the scandal was caused by management and inblamed "industrial muscle" for keeping the man.