Wharfies set to strike over pay and conditions dispute

Wharfies set to strike over pay and conditions dispute

Wharfies across Australia are set to walk off the job for up to 24 hours on Friday over a long-running dispute with employer Svitzer Towage, claiming the company is seeking to slash their pay almost in half.

The company, which is a subsidiary of maritime giant AP Moller Maersk, employs staff represented by the Maritime Union of Australia, the Australian Institute of Marine and Power Engineers, and the Australian Maritime Officers Union.

Svitzer is allegedly seeking to cancel its 2016 employment agreement with tugboat workers at every mainland port following the expiration in December 2019.

The unions have written to the company’s managers asking them to return to the negotiating table to avoid litigation next week in the Fair Work Commission, but their pleas have so far fallen on deaf ears.

Svitzer’s lawyers allegedly plan to apply to terminate the 2016 agreement and return their workforce to the marine towage award.

But the MUA claims that move would force workers to perform overtime to recoup pay, leading to dangerous levels of fatigue and stress, the obliteration of a work-life balance, as well as undermine the company’s ability to provide efficient services.

“Svitzer’s militant brinkmanship threatens to throw the smooth and efficient operation of almost every Australian seaport into complete chaos,” MUA national secretary Paddy Crumlin said.

“We are confident that the Fair Work Commission will look at the reckless and belligerent behaviour of Svitzer throughout this process and respond to the company’s court action appropriately.”

In the meantime, workers will walk off the job on Friday demanding action.

Work stoppage notices have been given for the following times on Friday:

  • Cairns — four hours from 11am;
  • Brisbane — 24 hours from 10am;
  • Newcastle — four hours from 11am;
  • Sydney — four hours from 11am;
  • Port Kembla and Eden — four hours from 11am;
  • Melbourne and Westernport — 24 hours from 11am;
  • Adelaide and Port Pirie — four hours from 10.30am;
  • Fremantle and Kwinana — four hours from 9am;
  • Geraldton — four hours from 9am; and
  • Albany — four hours from 9am.

“With efforts to negotiate in good faith being ignored by management, we are forced to take time off work this week to consider our options and decide democratically on a way forward,” AIMPE president Martin Byrne said.

“Our members are skilled, experienced and devoted to their profession, but they are being treated with contempt by a management team that seems determined to sink the company,” Mr Byrne added.

Mr Crumlin called on AP Moller Maersk to pull the local executives into line.

“These local executives are in over their heads and are leading the Australian subsidiary down a path to ruin with their short-sighted and pig-headed attitude,” he said.

“AP Moller Maersk needs to pull them into line and remind them of the company values, which its shareholders expect them to uphold, including respect for workers and their right to collective bargaining.”

NCA NewsWire is seeking comment from Svitzer.

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