Svitzer reaches agreement in principle with Australian unions Ship’s crew

Svitzer Australia, a subsidiary of the Danish shipping group AP Moller Maersk, has announced an agreement in principle with the Australian maritime unions on a new employment contract for Australian tugboat crews.

The agreement essentially encompasses a proposed new National Towage Enterprise Agreement that the two sides have been negotiating since late 2019. The agreement will now be voted on.

Svitzer said the deal offers union members both “security and benefits” and represents a fair offer that will hopefully be reflected in a positive vote. Voting is scheduled to take place June 8-10.

“We remain committed to providing a safe, reliable and efficient port towing infrastructure and to providing our customers with the best possible service,” Svitzer Australia said in its announcement. “Svitzer thanks customers for their patience during this time.”

The agreement in principle comes after more than three years of fruitless negotiations between Svitzer and representatives from the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA), the Australian Institute of Marine and Power Engineers (AIMPE) and the Australian Maritime Officers’ Union (AMOU). Salary increases were frozen during the negotiations.

According to the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF), Svitzer Australia’s tugs play a vital role in assisting vessels arriving and departing from 17 Australian ports, which account for more than 75 per cent of Australia’s trade.

In November last year, Australia’s Fair Work Commission ordered Svitzer Australia to scrap plans for a lockout of its dock tugboat workers that would have shut down Australia’s major ports. Svitzer said the lockout was due to increased industrial action by unions, which Svitzer said was affecting the company’s ability to do business and causing serious disruption to Australia’s supply chain.

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