Union issues strike notice against Svitzer

Svitzer's operations in Australian key ports are threatened by comprehensive strikes next week after a union has issued strike notices.

Photo: Svitzer

Next week, Svitzer could be hit with strikes in a number of key Australian ports, where the Maersk-owned towage company operates. The union AIMPE has issued a notice of 12 hour strikes on the 12th and 13th of January at five ports including Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne.

Since October, three maritime unions have negotiated with Svitzer for a new collective agreement for 2016 - two of which have approved the agreement. But the union AIMPE, Australian Institute of Maritime and Power Engineers, has declined the proposal for a new four-year collective agreement, which would cover all types of employees. The old agreement expired on the 31st of December 2015.

Martin Byrne, federal secretary at AIMPE, tells Australian media sources including the Sydney Morning Herald, that the strikes would have the greatest consequences at the ports in Melbourne, Geelong, Newcastle and Sydney, where Svitzer is the only operator.

The union is looking to maintain its position in which the conditions for the engineers are within the employees skill set and influence and no one else's, he tells the Australian news media.

So far, only one strike notice has been issued which is applicable for about 200 of the union's members.

Svitzer writes in a statement that the proposal for a new collective agreement with the employees on board the carrier's vessels is commonsense and would provide exactly the same protection for the members of AIMPE as they always have.

"Svitzer will continue to seek the best solution for our workforce ensuring an agreement over the next four years," the carrier writes.

The Australian market has been a big challenge for several towage and salvage companies, including for Svitzer, where for instance the Hong Kong-based company Pacific Basin has sold its activities with significant losses.

Svitzer bought Australian Adsteam back in 2007 and has since been forced to make large-scale impairments on the investment.

Another major Maersk company, APM Terminals, is currently afflicted by labor shutdowns in Rotterdam.

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