Unions block Svitzer’s EBA termination process for four months

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Proceedings that could have seen Svitzer Australia end its company bargaining agreement with three unions representing the company’s maritime workforce have been pushed back to the end of this year.

The towing company said it believed the unions had sought to delay the annulment ‘in the hope and perhaps in the knowledge’ that the government might change the law before the case reached its conclusion. conclusion.

The Fair Work Commission hearing, originally scheduled for Monday August 8, was pushed back after the Maritime Union of Australia, the Australian Institute of Marine and Power Engineers and the Australian Maritime Officers Union were granted a four-day adjournment. month.

The enterprise agreement termination hearing is now scheduled for December 8 and three more weeks in February 2023.

Had Svitzer successfully terminated the deal, Monday’s proceedings could have seen the company’s Australian tug workers receive a 47 per cent pay cut as they would instead be employed under the 2020 Marine Towage Award.

MUA, AIMPE and AMOU launched industrial action across the country on Friday, with some ports halting work for 24 hours.

With work stoppages in place, Sally McManus, secretary of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, addressed members at a virtual town hall.

At a press conference on Friday, MUA Deputy National Secretary Jamie Newlyn said the unions had come up with three priorities and demands at the virtual meeting.

First, they again called on Svitzer to return to the negotiating table and “negotiate in good faith” for a new enterprise agreement; second, they called on the federal government to amend the Fair Work Act to prohibit the termination of bargaining agreements; and third, they called on the CEO of Svitzer to “show leadership” and participate in negotiations with local officials.

“Interest rates are rising, inflation is exploding; these workers have not had a pay rise since 2019,” Mr Newlyn said.

“[It’s] Too bad Svitzer took us to the Fair Work Commission to terminate the agreement and cut wages by 47%. It is a scandal in our time that the company is allowed to do this.

AMOU chief executive Mark Davis said termination of the enterprise agreement would also impact working hours and therefore the efficiency and safety of port operations and the well-being of crew members. He insisted on the problem of fatigue.

“It’s totally unsustainable, especially when it’s the tug master…because if he or she isn’t rested before their shift, he/she won’t be able to perform… and he/she will pose a risk to the environment, and to the tug, the crew and the port.

“Unless tug captains are sufficiently rested before taking their shift, and are sufficiently rested after completing their shift, then this is a danger waiting to happen.

“We have a towing company that seems ready to put captains in this kind of situation.”

Paul Garrett, assistant secretary of MUA’s Sydney branch, recalled the recent situation in which the crews of the Svitzer tugs (as well as the crews of the Engage tugs) prevented the bulk carrier Portland Bay to fail. He said the efforts and heroism of the workers should be taken into account by the management.

“Local Svitzer management should resign in disgust and shame,” Garrett said.

“Just a few weeks ago, even the Prime Minister came out and called those tug workers heroes, and they rightly were.

“A few weeks later, going back and pushing the agenda to cut their salaries by 47%; it’s disgusting, it’s not Australian and honestly he should be held accountable.

Svitzer Australia said the company was disappointed that unions continued to “take advantage of a broken bargaining system” which allowed them to block the process.

“We know the unions want to hold up bargaining,” a spokesman for Svitzer said.

“We know they want to delay the Fair Work Commission process. They are counting on the federal government to make changes aimed at strengthening their position,” they said.

Indeed, at a press conference on Thursday, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said the unilateral termination of company bargaining agreements would likely be discussed at the next jobs and skills summit.

“We have repeatedly said that the industrial relations system does not work in the interests of companies or in the interests of workers,” Mr. Albanese said.

“We will seek to have constructive discussions between employers and unions on how we can change this.”

Svitzer said he faces competition from other players who aren’t bothered by the “restrictive” terms and conditions of enterprise agreements.

The company pointed to restrictions on recruitment, who is selected to complete the job, and employees receiving up to four days’ pay for working as little as two hours.

He said the three unions had insisted on terms and conditions negotiated more than 20 years ago which “are not fit for purpose and are not fit for a modern towing operation”.

Svitzer also suggested that unions misinformed employees.

“No matter what, Svitzer has promised to maintain the generous salaries and current baseline conditions, including rosters,” the spokesperson said.

“The unions know this but tell the employees and the public the opposite,” they said.

“All we want is to remove restrictions that are costly and unproductive to ensure we can compete now and in the future and increase productivity.

“The union misinformation campaign consists of telling our employees and the media that we refuse to meet or negotiate. As they well know, we are awaiting a response from them.

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