MUA welcomes Svitzer back down, presses for new agreement

April 19, 2023
Campaigning against Danish tugboat company Svitzer's attacks. Photo: Maritime Union of Australia Sydney branch/Facebook

The Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) said on April 17 that Danish tugboat company Svitzer had finally agreed to abandon its legal action to cancel the 2019 enterprise bargaining agreement (EBA) of almost 600 tugboat workers.

“The Svitzer EBA termination action is dead,” MUA Sydney Branch deputy secretary Paul Garrett said on April 17. “This is a significant moment, as Svitzer have agreed to discontinue their EBA termination case, in full.”

Svitzer was pushing for a new EBA that included big pay cuts, fewer safety and fatigue management measures and less job security. It had locked out workers and frozen workers’ wages.

“Sadly, a considerable amount of time, energy and resources have been expended on this process, and these resources could have long ago been better put by Svitzer towards rewarding the hard work and loyalty of their employees with a fair pay rise,” Garrett said.

“Tugboat workers have been denied a pay rise for over four years, as this process has been deliberately strung out by Svitzer’s managers and lawyers, with the added threat of complete termination hanging over their heads,” MUA assistant national secretary Jamie Newlyn said.

The Australian Council of Trade Union’s executive passed a unanimous motion on February 2 condemning Svitzer’s "relentless and ongoing attack” on the MUA, the Australian Maritime Officers Union and the Australian Institute of Marine and Power Engineers and committed “continued support”.

Newlyn said Svitzer’s decision allowed for the three maritime unions to work towards finalising a new agreement with the company.

The Australian Council of Trade Unions Executive wrote to parent company AP Moller Maersk, the world’s largest shipping company, and demanded Svitzer Australia act in accord with its stated global values, including commitments to respecting fundamental labour rights and constructive employee relations.

The MUA joined with representatives of Dutch and Danish transport unions in late March, prior to AP Moller Maersk’s annual general meeting, to push Svitzer to end the legal action.

MUA representative Jamie Newlyn told Danish media: “Svitzer and Maersk’s behaviour is an attack on the principles of collective bargaining and is contrary to the social values of both the Australian and Danish people. These managers should be called to heel by their Danish parent company or shown the door.”

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