Shipping Reform Labour Relations Compact Discussions

Report from Paddy Crumlin, National Secretary of the MUA - Shipping reform labour relations compact discussions

National Secretary Paddy Crumlin reports that the union has now held three rounds of discussions (29 April, 30 May and 15 July) with the shipowners on the matters that might be included in a Labour Relations Compact to underpin shipping reform.  Comrade Crumlin reports that the AMOU is fully participating in the Compact discussions but so far AIMPE has not participated. 


Comrade Crumlin has consistently reported that it is important for members to be aware that when the Minister announced a shipping reform package he indicated it is conditional on a compact between industry and unions to deliver productivity and efficiency reforms to better align practices in the Australian shipping industry with international best practice.  The Government announced this will need to be substantially accomplished by mid 2012, and should include at least the following:


  • Ship based cost reduction targets, including work practice productivity and efficiency gains;
  • A process to review minimum manning levels by shipowners, the maritime unions and the Australian Maritime Safety Authority, to determine the optimum operational crewing levels on board vessels that do not compromise safety or environmental outcomes; and
  • Introduction of riding gangs on board vessels involved in the coastal trade to undertake additional maintenance on terms and conditions of employment established under the Fair Work Act.

Comrade Crumlin reports that a number of background documents have been tabled by the shipowners over the 3 compact meetings.  At the third round of discussions held today, 15 July 2011, a shipowner document which is now in the public arena and may have been seen by members was rejected by the MUA and AMOU.  Comrade Crumlin indicates that the shipowners were advised that the language of the document and much of the background to various proposals it suggests for inclusion in a compact are inappropriate and are not developed in a way that is consistent with previous compact discussions. 


The union again outlined the matters where we believe there is scope for positive discussion and where the union anticipates opportunity for agreement.  These are the matters reported to members the May and June National Office Reports and include matters such as:


  • The conditions for use of fabric maintenance riding gangs, as general agreed for the remanning of new Rio Tinto vessels in the bauxite trade arising from the framework agreement reached with all maritime unions
  • Ship productivity improvements
  • Skills, training and workforce development
  • Safety
  • Identifying ways so that employers will not have to meet workers’ compensation scheme premium costs through the duplication of insurance payments through both Seacare and P&I Club requirements
  • Resolving operational manning issues
  • Agreed outcomes for employment conditions on Australian International Register vessels.

Comrade Crumlin reports that in the context of seeking to meet Government expectations and to contribute to long term stability in the industry, the union remains committed to continuing with good faith discussions with the shipowners on a compact, as does the AMOU.  It will nevertheless be important that the compact complements the regulatory, taxation and skills reforms that are under consideration, and delivers long term security for seafarers in the Australian domestic shipping industry.


Comrade Crumlin advises that the union accepts the Federal Government has made the compact as being one of the central parts if new reform legislative package, to secure the long term future of the Australian shipping industry.


Comrade Crumlin says that he is aware that the shipowners current discussion document has been released publicly by AIMPE.  Comrade Crumlin advises that AIMPE has refused to participate in compact discussions or in any other constructive way through the recent shipping reform reference group process.  The circulation of the shipowner document by them seems to be an attempt to undermine the process.  The MUA remains committed to reaching an agreement in this area that is acceptable to both the Government and to the membership of the union as was the case in the Rio Tinto new tonnage framework agreement.  


Comrade Crumlin reiterates that the MUA and AMOU have been the only maritime unions that have participated in the recent high level discussions with shipowners, ship operators, shippers, financiers, tax experts, training system participants and government.


He advises that he will report developments on any further compact discussions in the July National Office Report and at the Seafarers Conference to take place in mid August.  The Seafarers Conference will be preceded by an MUA National Council to discuss all elements of the legislation and related matters in detail.  The Minister for Infrastructure and Transport has been invited to that confernce.