Svitzer bosses on strike - refuse to lift ports lockout notice at Fair Work Commission

Published: 16 Nov 2022






Svitzer’s bosses are on strike, not their workers.


At a meeting facilitated by Fair Work Commission Vice President Hatcher, Svitzer Towage bosses refused to voluntarily withdraw the lockout threat which looms over 17 Australian ports nationwide, prompting the Maritime Union of Australia to call for an inquiry into how Australia’s supply chains have been allowed to become vulnerable to employer-led militancy.


“We have seen Svitzer’s international bosses stuff a ransom note in the mail flap of the Australian community on the cusp of Christmas, to shake down the entire nation under threat of economic and social chaos for no greater purpose than their own profiteering,” said MUA National Secretary Paddy Crumlin.


“This company’s social licence to operate should now be in doubt, and an inquiry into how a multinational Danish owned company can be allowed to hold an entire country to ransom through this campaign of employer-led industrial militancy must be held so we never again find ourselves vulnerable to this corporate piracy,” Mr Crumlin said.


The Fair Work Commission has signalled that it may intervene formally to prevent the economic and social chaos of a nationwide port shutdown but gave company bosses an opportunity to withdraw their threat voluntarily and return to good-faith bargaining.


Svitzer management representatives refused at a meeting today with Fair Work Vice President Hatcher to withdraw the lockout notice. In fact, Svitzer Managing Director Nicolaj Noes failed to present at the hearing today, and also refused to participate in Fair Work convened meetings yesterday with the Unions.


Vice President Hatcher had asked that Svitzer engage in a conciliation process this week to avert a supply chain disaster on Friday, but Svitzer’s management team refused.


Accordingly, with the bosses’ lockout of tugboat workers still looming large over the national economy, tomorrow a full bench hearing of the Fair Work Commission will consider whether to suspend or terminate the lockout threat made by Svitzer Australia management.


All three unions representing workers employed at Svitzer Towage – the MUA, the Australian Institute of Marine and Power Engineers (AIMPE) and the Australian Maritime Officers Union (AMOU) – offered to withdraw any further industrial action until beyond Christmas so that good faith bargaining could resume, however, the company refused to agree to this proposal and is persisting with its planned lockout on Friday.


“This amounts to a war on workers, a war on consumers, on households and businesses throughout the supply chain. Svitzer bosses’ dogged refusal to withdraw this lockout will destroy Christmas 2022 and bring our economy’s post-COVID recovery to a grinding halt,” Mr Crumlin said.




Key Facts:


The facts about Svitzer Towage:


  • Svitzer employs almost 600 tugboat workers at 17 ports around mainland Australia.
  • Svitzer enjoys a near monopoly control over tugboat services in every major Australian port.
  • Svitzer is a multi-national subsidiary of a multi-billion-dollar conglomerate, AP Moller Maersk.
  • Svitzer funnel hundreds of millions of dollars in profit overseas and pays minimal tax in Australia.
  • Svitzer has spent four years obstructing, avoiding and sabotaging the negotiation process for a new employment agreement.


The facts about Svitzer’s workforce


  • Svitzer’s workers have not received a pay increase since January 2019 – almost four years.
  • Tugboat workers are skilled, experienced and devoted seafarers whose expertise is an essential service within our supply chain. Without tugboats, Australian imports and exports stop.
  • Svitzer’s workers are heroic, frontline workers who protect our coastline and save lives in maritime emergencies and natural disasters.
  • Svitzer’s workers have continued to work throughout the COVID pandemic despite being denied a pay rise since January 2019.


The facts about the negotiation process


  • Svitzer bosses have obstructed and delayed negotiations for over four years, and in so doing have delivered a four year pay freeze.
  • Svitzer has derailed and sabotaged good faith bargaining at every opportunity and has shown no interest in negotiating a mutually agreeable outcome.
  • The industrial action which Svitzer’s workers have engaged in so far has been minimal, low-impact activities designed to encourage Svitzer to return to the bargaining table.
  • The only party to this dispute who has threatened to shut down our ports and stop working is Svitzer’s management.


Authorised by P Crumlin, Maritime Union of Australia, Sydney