THE Maritime Union of Australia has given notification of a 12-hour work stoppage Svitzer tugs in Brisbane starting at 1800 on Sunday 10 October through 0600 the following morning.

The union and the towage provider have been in negotiations for a new enterprise agreement since September 2019. The MUA has issued 42 notices of protected industrial action at Svitzer’s ports around Australia.

A spokesperson for Svitzer Australia said the MUA’s continued campaign of industrial action in Australian ports is causing uncertainty and disruption at a critical time when goods need to keep moving.

“We simply ask the unions to bring their efforts to bargaining so we can reach an agreement to create stability for the business, our customers and importantly our employees,” the spokesperson said.

“We have reduced our claims to six key claims, which are critical in ensuring we can compete and succeed over the long-term, while maintaining employees’ attractive salaries and conditions.

“Despite Svitzer seeking only modest changes in conditions for employees to address business-critical needs related to flexibility and high-fixed costs, the MUA continues to pursue its aggressive agenda with more industrial action.”

DCN understands the changes Svitzer is looking to make to the previous EA are intended to improve flexibility and efficiency. These changes will not affect crews’ even-time rosters or salaries. A yearly salary for a deckhand on a Svitzer tug comes to around $130,000 for about 26 weeks of work per year, excluding overtime.

The Svitzer spokesperson said, “Frustratingly, the four recent notices of industrial action undertaken by the Queensland Branch of the MUA, coincide with local issues regarding recruitment which are not related to the national enterprise agreement, and are ultimately delaying any progress in bargaining.”

“Svitzer remains committed to bargaining in good faith to secure a new enterprise agreement, which maintains members’ attractive salaries and core conditions and ensures a strong, sustainable foundation to continue to provide safe, efficient, and reliable towage services.”

MUA Sydney branch deputy secretary Paul Garrett said the union had been bargaining with Svitzer for more than two years.

“It has been incredibly difficult getting Svitzer back to the negotiation table and workers are left with the last option available of protected industrial action authorised by the Fair Work Commission,” he said.

“We call on Svitzer to return to the bargaining table and resolve the agreement so that consumers and the community are not impacted.”

Mr Garrett pointed out that Svitzer is owned by Maersk, which is the largest and among the most profitable container shipping operators in the world.

“[It is a] multi-national which has been raking in the profits during the pandemic,” he said.

“Tugboat workers have seen gradual attempts to strip wages and conditions under the shadow of a COVID crisis. Workers want certainty in their employment and to get on with the job. After two years of bargaining and a company refusing to meet, enough is enough.”