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Nautilus Federation backs Australian unions in Svitzer negotiation

15 December 2021

The Nautilus Federation is assisting two affiliated Australian unions, after Svitzer threatened to terminate long-standing agreements that protect the terms and conditions of maritime professionals.

Since 2019 the Australian Maritime Officers' Union (AMOU) and the Australian Institute of Marine and Power Engineers (AIMPE) have been engaging with Svitzer, a subsidiary of A.P. Møller-Mærsk, to renew the established enterprise agreement.

The parties almost concluded negotiations successfully prior to the Covid-19 pandemic. However, in recent months Svitzer's management have threatened to terminate a long-standing enterprise agreement and port operating procedures, claiming that the previous deal is unworkable because of damage to the business during the pandemic.

Terminating these longstanding arrangements would damage important terms and conditions for AMOU/AIMPE members, and substantially reduce pay for maritime professionals.

In a letter being sent to Svitzer and Maersk by affiliates of the Nautilus Federation – a group of 21 trade unions representing maritime professionals around the world, including Nautilus International – the company's local offices in areas where Federation affiliates are based have been asked to contact their Australian colleagues.

'We are concerned to hear that Svitzer has taken an aggressive stance in recent months,' the letter states. 'We do not believe that such threats are beneficial for global industrial relations between Svitzer, Maersk, and unions with which the companies generally have good working relationships.

‘We hope that you can encourage [Svitzer Australia] to negotiate with Nautilus Federation affiliates in order to return to a mutually agreeable resolution,’ it continues. 'We remain ready to assist wherever we can in order for this position to be reached.'

Martin Byrne, federal secretary of AIMPE said: 'Svitzer have taken a strategy in negotiations which is based on legalistic advice and ignores the practical operational requirements of the towage operations around Australia. Svitzer have tried to exclude workplace delegates from negotiations and have repeatedly threatened the termination of the current collective agreement.'

Mark Davis, AMOU’s executive officer, said: 'A rollover of the existing enterprise agreement would deliver industrial and economic stability for all parties, now and into the future. We hope that with the encouragement of fellow Nautilus Federation affiliates, the company will resume negotiations on a constructive basis and achieve an agreement acceptable to both the company and to the maritime professionals working there.'