MUA notes that tug company was seeking to cut pay of workers who averted disaster for Portland Bay

The Maritime Union of Australia lost no time on July 6th in pointing out that the crew of tug Bullara (IMO 9185621), owned and  managed by SVITZER Australia Pty Ltd, who had been highly praised by the Premier of New South Wales for narrowly averting what could have been a major environmental disaster on a scale similar to the 2007 Pasha Bulker, were under threat of a pay cut fromSvitzer Tugs.

The MUA said that the leading tug company was applying to the Fair Work Commission for the termination of their employees’ collective employment agreement and was seeking cuts to the pay, conditions and job security of over 600 tug boat workers around Australia. The other tugs involved in the initial response were the SL Martinique (IMO 9402445), managed by Smit Laminalco Singapore,and SL Diamantina (IMO 9417505), from Engage Marine.

MUA National Secretary, Paddy Crumlin, praised the skilful work of the maritime workers who prevented a potentially tragic disaster. “For a vessel of its size, adrift within one nautical mile of shore, there was a strong likelihood it would have run aground if not for the skilful intervention of towage workers aboard the tugs which were despatched from Port Botany and Sydney Harbour,” he said.

The Portland Bay was unladen at the time, was carrying up to 1000 tonnes of fuel oil, which would cause an environmental catastrophe if the ship was damaged or ran aground, Crumlin said.

He added that “as tugboat workers employed by SVITZER are out in mountainous seas joining a flotilla of tugs saving a ship and its 21 crew from being smashed up on the rocks, SVITZER’s management are applying to the Fair Work Commission to strip these workers’ pay and conditions”.

He asserted that “incidents like today’s daring rescue of 21 seafarers in wild seas demonstrate the importance of skilled, professional and experienced workers in such a dangerous, essential industry. SVITZER should stop seeking to cut their workers’ pay and casualize their employment when it is these people we depend on in an emergency”.

At the recent Maersk AGM, ITF representatives identified SVITZER’s anti-union position as being in breach of an existing ESG commitment between the parent company and Danish and ITF unions representing stevedoring, shipping, offshore and port services worldwide. Crumlin concluded that “the international seafarers and dockers meeting in London last week condemned SVITZER for their actions, calling on Maersk to bring them into line with their existing commitments to labour standards, particularly freedom of association and collective bargaining. SVITZER is an international embarrassment to the Maersk parent company”.