The Maritime Union of Australia has come to an agreement with Teekay Shipping that it will suspend protected industrial action for the next 30 days.
WA Branch Assistant Secretary Will Tracey said the MUA had taken industrial action off the table to allow for the EBA negotiations to proceed.
“Discussions between the two parties this week have been productive and both parties would like to see if we can reach a negotiated outcome without the need for industrial action,” he said.
“This has always been the MUA’s position, however recent intervention from industry groups and the Federal Government was making the negotiating environment unstable, so we have moved to stabilise it.”
The MUA represents deckhands who work for Teekay, which is contracted by BHP Billiton to run tugboat operations in Port Hedland.
The MUA has been negotiating with Teekay for 12 months and there were still several issues which had not been resolved.
These included a claim for annual leave, a relativity claim and a wage claim.
“Currently our members work 28 days straight for 12 hours a day, sometimes up to 20 hours a day. This is the equivalent of working almost 54 weeks a year. They get no annual leave, so we are seeking four weeks a year.
“Regarding the relativity claim, the award rate is for deckhands to receive 70% of a Master’s rate. Our members only get 62% and we are seeking to increase this to 67%.
“Finally on the wage claim, we have agreed to no wage rise for the first year of the agreement and a rise of 4% in years 2, 3 and 4.
“However, we have agreed to significant trade offs and increases in productivity to achieve our claims.”
Mr Tracey said that Port Hedland was very important to the Australian economy and the right pay and conditions had to be offered to attract the best tugboat workers in the country to work in such a remote location.
The MUA will also put in an application to the Fair Work Commission tomorrow to extend the period in which it can take protected industrial action by 30 days.
The MUA and Teekay will continue informal negotiations and will appear before Fair Work again on 5th June.