MUA rejects strike action claim

Published: 23 Jan 2014

The Maritime Union in WA has rejected a claim by the Australian Mines and Metals Association (AMMA) that it’s threatening to strike over ongoing wage negotiations.

In fact, the MUA has reduced its pay claim and applied to defer industrial action as a show of good faith in its EBA negotiations with marine contractor Tidewater.

“AMMA is blatantly misleading the public as part of an ongoing political campaign to demonise the MUA and the union movement generally,” said MUA Assistant Secretary Will Tracey.

The current EBA expired on the 31st July 2013, but the MUA has been in negotiations with Tidewater for more than a year.

Tidewater is one of the 22 companies currently servicing Western Australia’s offshore oil and gas industry, including Chevron’s $52billion Gorgon project.

MUA members who work for Tidewater include cooks, stewards and seafarers.

After almost 30 conferences and meetings in the Fair Work Commission, the Union has offered to drop its pay claim to 5.5% a year over the four year agreement, in an effort to achieve a negotiated outcome. The company has previously offered 4.5% for the first year and 4% for the next 3 years.

As another show of good faith, the MUA has also offered to defer any protected industrial action to allow the EBA negotiations to continue.

“The MUA was granted a ballot of members by the Fair Work Commission in November, and 100% of workers voted to take industrial action,” said Mr Tracey.

“It’s almost unprecedented that all members would vote ‘yes’ to every single one of the industrial options put to them in a ballot.

“The fact that this happened shows how strongly our members feel about these negotiations.”

By law, the MUA is required to take some form of protected action within 30 days of the ballot being declared.

However, Mr Tracey said the MUA had now applied to the Commission to defer any action for another 30 days to allow Tidewater to come back to the negotiating table.

Mr Tracey said although the Union had been willing to reduce its pay claim, there were still several other sticking points.

Under the new EBA, the Union wanted Tidewater to agree to employ properly trained and qualified local workers before foreign crews were considered.

“We understand that it’s in the industry’s interest to employ overseas workers to cut costs and return bigger profits to shareholders,” said Mr Tracey.

“But it’s in the national interest for local workers to be trained, qualified and given the opportunity to work on these projects, and for them to be paid well, so they can spread the benefits across our economy.”

Mr Tracey dismissed claims by the industry that it could not afford better pay and conditions for its workers.

A recent report by BIS Shrapnel found that less than one per cent of the total cost of the $52 billion Gorgon project was attributable to the wages of maritime workers.

The MUA also wanted workers to move from a five weeks on, five weeks off roster to a more family-friendly four on, four off, to bring them into line with other workers in the industry.

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Authorised by P Crumlin, Maritime Union of Australia, Sydney