PILOT cutter crews at the Port of Mackay have notified their employer, Smit Lamnalco, of further work stoppages extending into this week.

On Friday (15 July) afternoon, members of the Australian Maritime Officers Union and the Maritime Union of Australia gave notice of four consecutive 24-hour work bans starting on 0800 Sunday (17 July).

Union members have been on strike since Wednesday morning.

Members of the Maritime Officers Union of Australia and the Maritime Union of Australia issued a 24-hour stop-work notice for Mackay pilot cutter crews starting on Wednesday morning. The company responded with a lock-out notice for the same time period.

And in response to the lock-out notice, the unions issued a further three notices of protected industrial action that continue through to Sunday morning at 0800. And again, the company responded with a lock-out order for the same time period.

MUA state secretary Jason Miners said the pilot cutter crews are an essential part of the supply chain in Mackay.

“We make no apologies for the action taken as these workers are grossly underpaid and undervalued by Smit Lamnalco. They are determined to seek wage justice with the only means available to them, being further protected industrial action,” Mr Miners said.

“We have always been open to further discussions and hope for a resolution as soon as possible.”


AMOU Queensland organiser Tracey Ellis said the unions have agreed to attend conciliation with Deputy President Asbury in the Fair Work Commission in a bid to resolve the outstanding issues.

“The issues include bringing back the three full time crews and a meaningful pay increase to at least bring them in line with NQBP’s other pilot boat operation in Bowen,” she said.

Smit Lamnalco managing director Australia David Fethers confirmed that in response to the protected industrial action notice issued by the unions for a 24-hour stoppage of pilot boat operations in Mackay, Smit Lamnalco exercised its own employer response action rights under s414(4) of the Fair Work Act by issuing a lock-out notice to employees.

“The lock-out notice mirrored and ran concurrent with the timing of the 24-hour union stoppage,” he said.

“Subsequently both unions notified SLTA that ‘in response to Smit Lamnalco’s lockout notice’ they would extend the original 24-hour stoppage by a further three days, until 0800 on Sunday 17th July. It would seem the unions are happy to exercise their rights under the Fair Work Act, however it is unacceptable to them that an employer exercise their equivalent right.”

Mr Fethers said in June, Smit Lamnalco invited the unions to participate in conciliation with the assistance of the Fair Work Commission to find a workable solution.

“The unions refused to participate in the process at that time,” he said.

“An additional request for assisted conciliation was made on Wednesday this week. To date both unions have failed to respond to either Smit Lamnalco or the commission. Smit Lamnalco remains ready to meet to progress discussions.”

The unions say the dispute is over pay for crew and crewing levels. They say the costs of living in Mackay has “forced these workers to take desperate measures”.

“The crews want to return to a safe crewing level, wage parity with the other NQBP pilot boat operation and a real-world wage increase that at least keeps up with CPI instead of taking them backwards by 3% per year,” Ms Ellis said.

MUA state secretary Jason Miners said these workers had never taken action before and Smit Lamnalco’s “standover tactics” are unwarranted.

“This can be worked out around the negotiating table. Instead, as a result of Smit Lamnalco’s militant lockout, we’ll likely see a disruption to fuel supply.”

This article has been updated to include information about additional work stoppages.