Australia’s Port Dispute Shows A Labor System Full Of Holes
With a settlement not really any closer, the Svitzer dispute demonstrates the failure of the Fair Work Act to provide a safety valve to resolve intractable labor disputes in Australia....
Australia’s Fair Work Commission has ruled that Svitzer Australia, a subsidiary of Danish shipping giant A.P. Moller-Maersk, must scrap its plans for a lockout of its harbor tug workers that was set to start Friday, threatening to cause widespread disruption at Australian ports.
The indefinite lockout, which was announced by Svitzer Australia earlier this week, would have brought Australian ports to a near standstill. It comes after nearly four years of unsuccessful bargaining for a new enterprise agreement for Svitzer’s unionized tug workers with representatives from three maritime unions; Maritime Union of Australia (MUA), the Australian Institute of Marine and Power Engineers (AIMPE) and the Australian Maritime Officers’ Union (AMOU). Pay raises have been frozen during the negotiations.
Svitzer Australia tugs secure the safe departure and arrival of over 75 percent of Australian trade, according to the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF), of which the three unions are affiliated.
The lockout would have impacted harbor tug operations in 17 Australian ports.
Svitzer says the lockout comes after increased industrial action organized by the unions that Svitzer says has harmed its ability to serve its shipping customers and is causing serious disruption to Australia’s supply chain.
“We welcome this decision from the industrial court in Australia. But it should not require a judicial slapdown to remind a Maersk subsidiary that they cannot engage in such destructive, winner-takes-all workplace relations,” said Niek Stam, acting co-chair of the Fair Practices Committee Steering Group, the ITF’s highest meeting of maritime unions.
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