Members of the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) working for the Maersk tugboat subsidiary, Svitzer, have begun a series of work restrictions after the employer’s claims for new conditions as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.
An MUA statement said the union had given extensive notice to the company of the industrial action in an effort to allow the company to reduce the impact on its customers.
However, the union was steadfast in its position claiming that Svitzer had shifted the goal posts during negotiations that were close to finalising an agreement.
“Svitzer Australia is owned by highly-profitable multinational shipping conglomerate Maersk, the largest container ship and supply vessel operator in the world,” said an MUA statement.
“Despite being on a cusp of finalising a new workplace agreement earlier this year, Svitzer management decided to use the Covid crisis to introduce 30 new claims that would slash the rights, conditions, and job security of their Australian workforce,” the union.
As a result the union said it is entirely justified for its members to undertake “completely legal forms of industrial action in protest”.
However, the shipowners association, Shipping Australia Limited (SAL) took a broader perspective, arguing that the latest MUA action is part of a co-ordinated campaign of disruption by the MUA.
“Amidst the challenges of Covid-19, Australia’s trade continues to be interrupted by the MUA. This time it has decided to disrupt Australia’s economic lifeblood of maritime trade by declaring industrial action targeted at towage provider Svitzer,” added SAL.
Industrial action at the following ports was reportedly planned for today: Port Adelaide, Port Pirie, Geelong, Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Port Kembla.
At Port Botany union action does not cover towage, only operations at the berth.