Please note we have received the following notification regarding industrial action from the Container Transport Alliance Australia (CTAA):
In the latest industrial unrest and delays to beset the Australian waterfront, tug masters employed by Svitzer Australia (represented by the Australian Maritime Officers Union (AMOU)) are undertaking extensive Protected Industrial Action (PIA) across many ports in Australia.
From a container shipping perspective, these strike actions are impacting on vessel arrivals and departures in Port Botany, Brisbane and Fremantle. Thankfully, Melbourne has been spared (at this point in time).
The current notified PIAs in Australian container ports are:
- 48-hour stoppage from 00:01 on 17 February to 00:01 on 19 February
- 48-hour stoppage from 00:01 on 22 to 00:01 on 24 February
- 48-hour stoppage from 0600 on 17 February to 0600 on 19 February
- 72-hour stoppage from 0600 on 22 February to 0600 on 25 February
- 48-hour stoppage from 0700 on 24 February to 0700 on 19 February
- 48-hour stoppage from 0700 on 3 March to 0700 on 5 March
- A ban on employees performing recall and relief work during a period of leave for an unlimited duration from 0700 on 18 February
As a result of these strike actions, berthing delays in the impacted ports will deteriorate even further from the current delays caused by significant vessel off-window arrivals, vessel bunching, COVID-related labour absenteeism in container terminals, and other factors.
Container terminals are already informing landside stakeholders of changes to scheduled vessel arrivals impacting on projected import container availability dates, and export receival timeframes.
Some shipping lines have also notified vessel port rotations to try to avoid the worst of the berthing delays.
While Melbourne hasn't been targeted for strike actions yet, the rotation of some vessels to Melbourne ahead of Sydney (or Brisbane) will add further berthing pressures in Melbourne. It will also contribute further to Melbourne's very congested landside container logistics chain where:
- Transport operators' yards are well over-capacity
- COVID-related labour absenteeism in all sectors of the chain has contributed to logistics delays
- Container dwell times are increasing
- Major road works are extending truck travel times tremendously, leading to very negative impacts on truck productivity
- There are strains in managing empty container de-hires as well.
CTAA understands that Svitzer has applied to the Fair Work Commission (FWC) for the Protected Industrial Action (PIA) to be suspended or terminated on economic grounds. A hearing on the matter in the FWC in Sydney is set down for 10m tomorrow (Friday, 18 February 2022).
The background to the dispute is that Svitzer has been negotiating with the three maritime unions with coverage in the tug sector on the terms of a new Enterprise Agreement (EA) since before the existing EA lapsed in 2019.
Then, in January this year, Svitzer applied to the FWC for the existing EA to be terminated, which if endorsed by the FWC would result in the pay and conditions of employees reverting to those contained in the Marine Towage Award 2020.
This dispute comes at a most inopportune time as the container shipping and associated landside logistics chain are under unprecedented strain. We hope that the Protected Industrial Action is either withdrawn, suspended or terminated, and that the parties continue at the negotiation table to reach agreement on new EA conditions.
The dispute also strengthens calls by CTAA, echoed by other organisations submitting views to the current Productivity Commission Inquiry into Australia's maritime logistics system and supply chains, that in circumstances where industrial bargaining disputes arise in defined “critical industry sectors”, including container shipping & logistics, there should be clearer pathways to arbitration outcomes by the Fair Work Commission (FMC), and stronger powers to suspend or terminate industrial actions if supply chain continuity is significantly threatened.
We continue to monitor the situation and will keep customers updated.