Tug Workers' Right to Bargain Cemented by Commission

The MUA has had a significant victory for tugboat workers in Gladstone after the Fair Work Commission dismissed tugboat operator Smit’s attempt to block bargaining for 12 months.

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Smit towage exited most of the Australian market last year but it continued its contract in Gladstone. The company attempted to move its existing employees onto its national agreement despite there being a local agreement in place.

Had the company had been successful tugboat workers would have had to wait another year to negotiate their EBA despite the local agreement having expired. But the Commission blocked Smit in its attempt, finding it would have left workers worse off.  

FWC Vice President Watson observed: “In my view there is a disadvantage to employees to effectively have their enterprise agreement extended by 12 months without any counterbalancing benefit … the loss of an opportunity to support claims with protected industrial action is in my view a real disadvantage.

MUA Assistant National Secretary Ian Bray said he welcomed the Commission’s findings and hoped it sent a message to other employers that business transfers and changes should not be used as an excuse to undermine worker’s right to bargain.

 Queensland Branch Secretary Bob Carnegie also welcomed the August 17 decision.

“Workers in the port of Gladstone are understandably relieved having fought hard for their right to negotiate a new agreement,” Carnegie said.

“After so much instability in the industry, this is a good sign that things are calming down and everyone can get back to work and back to the negotiating table.

“I would like to praise the work of Aaron Neal from the MUA legal team, MUA delegates, Paul Petersen and last but not least the exceptional work of Deputy Branch Secretary Jason Miners who played a pivotal role in our success.”