Waterfront industrial action to cause delays: CTAA

Container Transport Alliance Australia (CTAA) says Svitzer Australia’s tug masters will strike at waterfronts in Port Botany, Brisbane and Fremantle between February and March.

The Australian Maritime Officers Union represents Svitzer’s employees. CTAA says the industrial action will cause delays to vessel arrivals across the three affected ports.

While there are yet to be strikes at any of Melbourne’s ports, the city will experience berthing pressures due to some vessels being sent to it ahead of Sydney and Brisbane. It will also exacerbate Melbourne’s already congested landside container logistics chain, the CTAA says.

The CTAA notes that transport operators’ yards are well over capacity, container dwell times are increasing, and there are also strains in managing empty container de-hires.

Additional problems include trucks not being able to travel quickly along Melbourne’s roads because of major road works, and logistical delays related to a shortage of workers who have fallen sick with COVID.

Vessel off-window arrivals and bunching along with employee absenteeism in container terminals will result in worsening berthing delays.

Container terminals have informed landside stakeholders of changes to scheduled vessel arrivals impacting import container availability dates and export receival timeframes.

Some shipping lines have also notified vessel port rotations to help them avoid the worst of the berthing delays.

According to CTAA, 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 occurring at 10am Friday February 18.

Svitzer has been negotiating with the three maritime unions with regards to the new Enterprise Agreement (EA). This has been in motion since before the existing EA lapsed in 2019.

In January, Svitzer applied to the FWC for the existing EA to be terminated. If the FWC endorses it, it would result in employees’ pay and conditions reverting to those contained in the Marine Towage Award 2020.

CTAA says this dispute “comes at a most inopportune time as the container shipping and associated landside logistics chain are under unprecedented strain.”

It hopes the Protected Industrial Action (PIA) is either “withdrawn, suspended or terminated”, and that the parties reach an agreement on new EA conditions.

Other organisations have submitted views to the current Productivity Commission Inquiry into Australia’s logistics system and supply chains that in circumstances where industrial bargaining disputes arise in defined “critical industry sectors,” including container shipping and logistics, there should be clearer pathways to arbitration outcomes by the FWC, and stronger powers to suspend or terminate industrial actions if supply chain continuity is significantly threatened.

The current notified PIAs in Australian container ports are:

Port Botany:

  • 48-hour stoppage from 00:01 on February 17 to 00:01 on February 19
  • 48-hour stoppage from 00:01 on February 22 to 00:01 on February 24

Brisbane:

  • 48-hour stoppage from 06:00 on February 17 to 06:00 on February 19
  • 72-hour stoppage from 06:00 on February 22 to 06:00 on February 25

Fremantle:

  • 48-hour stoppage from 07:00 on February 24 to 07:00 on February 19
  • 48-hour stoppage from 07:00 on March 3 to 07:00 on March 5
  • A ban on employees performing recall and relief work during a period of leave for an unlimited duration from 07:00 on February 1

For more information on Container Transport Alliance Australia, click here. 

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