Trade unions have welcomed a strong rebuke of Maersk-owned Svitzer Australia by the Fair Work Commission (FWC) after the court blocked the company’s planned lockout of its entire Australian workforce which was due to begin on 18 November.
Australia's FWC stated that Svitzer’s announcement has caused the Commission to consider making an order on its own initiative to suspend or terminate protected industrial action by Svitzer.
Unions also urge Maersk’s return to negotiating table.
The International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) said in a statement that Svitzer Australia, whose tugs secure the safe departure and arrival of over 75% of Australian trade, had announced the lockout earlier this week "to rachet up pressure on the workers as part of drawn-out bargaining over a new pay deal".
The crew, who are members of three ITF-affiliated unions – Maritime Union of Australia (MUA), the Australian Institute of Marine and Power Engineers (AIMPE) and the Australian Maritime Officers’ Union (AMOU) – have been negotiating with Svitzer for more than three years to secure a successor deal to an expired workplace agreement.
That means they have gone without any pay rise in that time, according to ITF.
"We welcome this decision from the industrial court in Australia. But it should not require a judicial slapdown to remind a Maersk subsidiary that they cannot engage in such destructive, winner-takes-all workplace relations," commented Niek Stam, acting co-chair of the Fair Practices Committee Steering Group – the ITF’s highest meeting of maritime unions.
“Our network of over 400 maritime affiliates and over 700 transport unions globally, stand ready and waiting to mobilise to support the Svitzer crew. We are united in our shock and dismay at the use of these tactics by a Maersk subsidiary,” said Dave Heindel, co-chair of FPC SG and chair of the ITF Seafarers’ Section.