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Tug boat giant Svitzer to lockout workers in supply chain threat to hit ports across the country

Svitzer managing director Nicolaj Noes said “we are at a point where we see no other option but to respond to the damaging industrial action underway by the unions”.

“Svitzer has an obligation to serve its customers safely, reliably and efficiently and to ensure imports and exports, and our nation’s trade and supply chains run without disruption,” he said.

“The inability to reach a new enterprise agreement and the high number of protected industrial actions prevent us from doing so.”

The unions have escalated industrial action in the past month including a ban on servicing Maersk ships.

In a statement Svitzer said the industrial action was harming its ability to “reliably, safely and efficiently serve our shipping customers and port operations around the country and is causing serious disruption to the national supply chain which is reliant on shipping”.

“With each instance of industrial action valuable imports and exports are delayed, disrupted, or goods and produce lost.”

The company has been bargaining with unions since September 2019, and has held 75 bargaining meetings in total but none since October 20.

Meanwhile, Svitzer has applied to terminate its almost 100-page union agreement as way to remove the conditions, which include clauses on manning levels.

The current agreement allows the unions to nominate members for new jobs and participate in shortlisting and even interviewing job applicants.

Casuals, who receive a 25 per cent loading under the award, receive a 100 per cent loading in the agreement and must be paid for a full day regardless of how many hours they work.

The agreement also restricts when particular work can be done forcing the company to hire more workers to do other work for the rest of the day.

Workers earn $130,000 to $200,000 a year depending on whether they’re deckhands, engineers or masters,

A Fair Work Commission hearing on the termination case is scheduled for December.

Mr Noes said Svitzer would continue to provide “well-paying, highly regarded” maritime jobs but was “only seeking to make common-sense changes that are necessary for Svitzer to operate and compete effectively and, in-turn, protect jobs”.

“We sincerely regret the difficulties and disruption this lockout presents to our customers and other stakeholders within the supply chain, including ultimately, every Australian consumer.”

More to come.

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