Logistics News

Tug engineers go on strike in NSW and Geelong

While cargo loading and unloading will continue during the halt, shipping movement will cease completely


Tug engineers working for Svitzer Australia began a 12-hour strike this morning after unsuccessful negotiations for a new enterprise agreement with the company.

Tug operator Svitzer initiated talks to consolidate the three agreements (one each for tug engineers, deckhands and tug skippers) into one a move rejected by tug engineers.

Failing to agree on a new contract, the engineers in Sydney and Geelong launched a strike at 4am today, with more strikes planned in other states in the following days.

The Australian Institute of Marine and Power Engineers (AIMPE) states the move will reduce qualification requirements for engineers.

AIMPE federal secretary Martin Byrne says a notice about the strike was handed in last Wednesday.

“The issue is one of great concern to them, however, in terms of impact, we gave notice last Wednesday, six days ago,” he says.

While cargo loading and unloading will continue during the halt, shipping movement will cease completely, which has led to rescheduling of incoming and outbound ships during the period.

“The arrivals and departures in the Port of Newcastle have been rescheduled so as to avoid a clash with the 12-hour stoppage that’s been notified,” Byrne says.

Svitzer head of strategy and corporate affairs Craig Carmody says it was “disappointing” that the union and the company could not see eye-to-eye.

“As it currently stands, we have three crew members on a tug, and they’re covered by three agreements, and we have to deal with three unions at a time to get anything done, and we think that in the 21st century it just makes sense to have a single agreement covering all three people on that tug,” Carmody says in a statement to the ABC.

The ports of Newcastle and Sydney have been working to minimise the impact on its clients.

Ports Australia CEO David Anderson says, “Svitzer’s proposal is not attacking work conditions or remuneration, it is about bringing three man crews of tugs under one agreement.

“It is highly irresponsible for this union [AIMPE], which has a very small presence in the overall port community, to bring everything to a standstill over a structural matter relating to their agreement.”

However, a Svitzer spokesman says that the impact on port operations has been minimal so far.

Ports affected by the strike today include Newcastle, Botany Bay, Port Kembla and Geelong, while there are plans for strikes in Melbourne and Brisbane tomorrow followed by strikes across South Australian and Western Australia.

Port of Melbourne Corporation’s head of corporate affairs Peter Harry told ATN that the authorities are “monitoring the tug situation and hope the parties [Switzer and AIMPE] can reach a resolution to limit any impact on vessel movements noting that not all vessels require a tug”.

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