THE Maritime Union of Australia has postponed a series of work stoppages for tug crews employed by Svitzer Australia at Port of Melbourne and Westernport.

The protected industrial action consisted of four rolling four-hour work stoppages for a total of 16 hours in duration starting from 1600 on Friday 23 July through to 0800 the next morning.

A Svitzer spokesperson said the company welcomed the withdraw of the PIA to allow negotions to continue.

“The industrial action has not been productive in the negotiations,” the spokesperson said.

“Svitzer is committed to bargaining in good faith with the unions to negotiate a new enterprise agreement that will put us on a sustainable footing in the long-term so we can continue to offer good jobs and high salaries to the union’s members.”

The spokesperson said Svitzer had reduced its claims to less than 10 through ongoing negotiation sessions with the unions over the past year.

“We have made significant compromises and now are just proposing a handful of changes which are critical in ensuring we can compete and succeed over the long-term,” the spokesperson said.

“Svitzer Australia has continued to meet with the unions and meetings have been held in April, May, June and July with a 3-day bargaining session held from 29 June-1 July and two subsequent smaller group workshops last week. Further bargaining sessions are scheduled for the coming weeks, where we hope to make meaningful progress on reaching an agreement.”

MUA Deputy Victorian Branch Secretary David Ball said the planned industrial action 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”.

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

“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.”

Mr Ball said MUA members had continued to work throughout the COVID crisis, keeping essential supplies flowing to the Victorian community.

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