Unions rethink ANL privatisation
By Jennifer Thompson
The Maritime Union's (MUA) favoured bidder for the publicly owned shipping company, the Australian National Line (ANL), withdrew its bid on May 22, sparking a rethink on union agreement to the sale. The only remaining bidder is the British-based shipping company P&O, which is not trusted by unions to maintain Australian crews and conditions on the line.
Both the MUA and the Australian Services Union (ASU) have called for the ANL sale to be halted and the shipping line restructured to return it to a profitable state. This would likely involve a management restructure and a capital investment by the federal government to modernise the fleet.
MUA joint national secretary John Coombs said that the MUA believed the ANL should remain publicly owned until its bottom line had improved. "It makes sense to do that rather than just give it away."
A meeting of ASU shipping delegates agreed, declaring, "The ASU ... requires that in addition to supporting the in-house bid, the government give a commitment to a capital injection of funding for five years to achieve a profitable and efficient operation".
Union fears about the sale of ANL to P&O are well-founded. The Australian managing director, Richard Hein, refuses to give any undertakings about future staffing levels.