Melbourne: Tug crews postpone planned industrial action

Tug crews in Port Melbourne and Westernport have postponed legally protected industrial action, which was due to commence this afternoon, after Svitzer Australia agreed to return to the negotiating table.

The Maritime Union of Australia has been attempting to negotiate a new enterprise agreement with the company for nearly two years

Svitzer Australia, the largest operator of towage services in Australia with a fleet of more than 100 tugs at 28 ports, is owned by the world’s largest container ship and supply vessel operator, Maersk.

The union and the company will also discuss potential options for insourcing and expanding towage operations, including at the Port of Geelong where 18 workers were made redundant last year.

MUA Deputy Victorian Branch Secretary David Ball said the planned industrial action was always about getting Svitzer to return to the negotiating table and bargain in good faith.

“This planned action was completely legal and was only occurring because of Svitzer’s refusal to negotiate on key issues, including some of their claims which threatened to cut the rights, conditions, and job security of Australian workers,” Mr Ball said.

“In recent days, we have made significant progress, with the company agreeing to genuinely negotiate on these important outstanding issues.

“Given the planned industrial action was always about getting the company back to the negotiating table, and that goal has been achieved, tug crews at Port Melbourne and Westernport have postponed today’s planned industrial action.

“Our members have continued to work throughout the COVID crisis, keeping essential supplies flowing to the Victorian community, yet despite those efforts they faced attacks to their livelihoods from this highly-profitable multinational company.”

Mr Ball said the company had also agreed to have discussions with the union in relation to tug crews at Geelong, who were made redundant last year and replaced by fly-in fly-out labour hire workers.

“We are continuing our campaign to bring back local jobs at the Port of Geelong,” he said.

“Svitzer’s move to make local tug crews redundant, then restart marine towage services at the port with a contractor using fly-in fly-out labour hire workers, is simply an unacceptable way to treat Australian workers.”

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