THE AUSTRALIAN Maritime Officers Union on Saturday announced that masters of Svitzer tugboats would strike in the ports of Brisbane, Sydney (Botany and Jackson), Cairns and Newcastle.

The union notified the company of three stop-work periods of 48 hours each on 17, 22 and 24 February.

DCN understands these strikes will cause significant disruption to shipping at the four locations.

There are exemptions to the work bans where the masters will mobilise for emergencies, defence or threat to life and property.

The union said the strike is in pursuit of a new enterprise agreement to replace the one that expired on 31 December 2019.

Meanwhile, Svitzer said the industrial action was an attempt to put pressure on the company to rescind its application to the Fair Work Commission to terminate the current EBA with the AMOU and the other two maritime unions, the MUA and AIMPE.

The company said the termination application was lodged after two years of “fruitless” negotiations with the unions.

“Given the extensive negotiation by Svitzer without resolution (over 50 bargaining sessions), and the continued disruption of Australian ports, Svitzer has been forced to apply to terminate the EA,” the company said.

Svitzer managing director Nicolaj Noes said the proposed strikes will not achieve anything but place serious pressure on Australian businesses.

“Only a month ago the unions were saying a termination of our enterprise agreement by the Fair Work Commission would put undue pressure on the global supply chain. Yesterday they announced actions that will grind several ports to a halt without regard for the inevitable harm to the nation’s economy this will inflict,” Mr Noes said.

“Accordingly, Svitzer intends to seek Fair Work Commission intervention tomorrow so that these extraordinary actions cannot take place,” Mr Noes said.

AMOU executive officer Mark Davis said the union’s tugboat-master members are “a responsible group of workers with little previous intention to take strike action. The behaviour of the company has so exasperated them that they have had to withdraw their labour”.

Mr Davis said the company’s application to terminate the EA is “a draconian weapon” to revert to the much lower award conditions to force concessions from its masters and crew

“AMOU is concerned that safety may be undermined if a new work system is implemented,” he said.

Mr Davis pointed out that Svitzer’s parent company, A.P Moller – Maersk, had seen a tremendously profitable year in 2021. The company’s revenue increased by 55% in 2021 to US$61.8 billion. Its EBITDA tripled to US$24 billion and free cashflow was US$16.5 billion.

“Obviously, this insatiable group requires more,” Mr Davis said.