Thursday, December 16, 2021

Unions Line Up to Criticise Plans to Break Enterprise Agreements with Staff by Major Player

Assaulted from All Sides Towage Company Asked to Think Again
Shipping News Feature

AUSTRALIA – Regular readers may well have noticed that there has been a long term dispute bubbling down under between tug operator Svitzer, an AP Moller Maersk subsidiary, and its staff affiliated to the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) who regularly conduct protests, work stoppages and overtime bans.

This is not however the only Maersk group company which has upset the unions. Back in January Maersk Supply Service stood accused of trying to cut pay rates and the Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union (CFMMEU) members employed by Svitzer Australia Pty Ltd announced they would cease work at various times on all Maersk vessels at the nineteen ports covered by the Svitzer Australia Pty Limited National Towage Enterprise Agreement 2016.

The agreement is at the heart of these disputes and now the pressure on Svitzer has been ratcheted up as the Nautilus Federation, a group of 21 trade unions representing maritime professionals around the world, has publicly entered the fray. Since 2019 the Australian Maritime Officers’ Union (AMOU) and the Australian Institute of Marine and Power Engineers (AIMPE) have also been engaging with Svitzer to renew the established enterprise agreement.

Nautilus says the parties almost concluded negotiations successfully prior to the Covid-19 pandemic. However, in recent months Svitzer's management have threatened to terminate the long-standing enterprise agreement and port operating procedures, claiming that the previous deal is unworkable because of damage to the business during the pandemic.

In a letter being sent to Svitzer and Maersk by affiliates of the Nautilus Federation, the company’s local offices in areas where Federation affiliates are based have been asked to contact their Australian colleagues. The letter states:

“We are concerned to hear that Svitzer has taken an aggressive stance in recent months. We do not believe that such threats are beneficial for global industrial relations between Svitzer, Maersk, and unions with which the companies generally have good working relationships.

“We hope that you can encourage [Svitzer Australia] to negotiate with Nautilus Federation affiliates in order to return to a mutually agreeable resolution. We remain ready to assist wherever we can in order for this position to be reached.”

Nautilus says that terminating these longstanding arrangements would damage important terms and conditions for AMOU/AIMPE members, and substantially reduce pay for maritime professionals, with Martin Byrne, federal secretary of AIMPE commenting:

”Svitzer have taken a strategy in negotiations which is based on legalistic advice and ignores the practical operational requirements of the towage operations around Australia. Svitzer have tried to exclude workplace delegates from negotiations and have repeatedly threatened the termination of the current collective agreement.”

Byrne’s comments were fully supported by the executive officer of AMOU, Mark Davis, who concluded:

”A rollover of the existing enterprise agreement would deliver industrial and economic stability for all parties, now and into the future. We hope that with the encouragement of fellow Nautilus Federation affiliates, the company will resume negotiations on a constructive basis and achieve an agreement acceptable to both the company and to the maritime professionals working there.”

Photo: Courtesy of Svitzer.