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Published: 23 Mar 2022
As the COVID crisis continues to wreak havoc on global supply chains and international maritime and transport sectors grapple with geopolitical conflict in Ukraine, the self-interested and opportunistic conduct of Svitzer Towage is an indictment on its parent company, AP-Moller Maersk.
Svitzer Towage’s global CEO, Kasper Friis Nilaus, visited Svitzer Australia’s Port Melbourne offices twice this week for a meet-and-greet with local management and a VIP river cruise, but doggedly refused to meet with tugboat workers or their union about a long-running industrial dispute that is being litigated by the company in the courts and which if successful threatens to bring Australia’s maritime supply chain to a grinding halt.
“At a time of great responsibility, amidst ongoing pandemic and now violent global conflict, Svitzer and Maersk are failing to meet the expectations of the international community and their loyal workforce,” said the MUA’s National Secretary, Paddy Crumlin.
Svitzer Australia has applied to Fair Work Commission to terminate the employment agreements of its entire Australian tugboat crew, with the aim of pushing almost 1000 workers on to the basic Industrial Award, the consequences of which would catastrophic for the Australian maritime logistics sector.
“The Maritime Union of Australia has been offering to meet and negotiate in good faith with Svitzer’s CEO while he is in Australia, but he has ignored these efforts and deferred to the local managers who are taking us down a pathway of termination”, Mr Crumlin said.
“Mr Nilaus’ refusal to meet with the workers who deliver his company’s profits flies in the face of Svitzer and its parent company’s claims that they value respectful and cooperative relationships with their workforce,” he said.
Svitzer Australia is a wholly owned subsidiary of the world’s largest shipping company, AP-Moller Maersk, and operates tugboat services in every major port or harbour around mainland Australia. AP-Moller Maersk posted a massive global profit exceeding US$24 billion in the last financial year. It has been one of the world’s greatest beneficiaries of the massive changes to the global economy caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The company has been in dispute with each of the three unions which cover tugboat workers in Australia, the Maritime Union of Australia, the Australian Institute of Marine and Power Engineers and the Australian Maritime Officers Union.
Mr Crumlin, who is also the President of the International Transport Workers Federation (ITF), pointed to an appearance at the recent Maersk AGM of ITF representatives speaking on behalf of Svitzer employees around the globe and calling for shareholders to ensure Maersk subsidiaries acted in accordance with the company’s corporate values statement.
“This company is locked in disputes with its workers not just in Australia but in the United Kingdom and the Netherlands, so a pattern of behaviour from management is emerging which is completely at odds with the values espoused by the Maersk Group”, Mr Crumlin said. “Rather than employer-led militancy or litigation, Svitzer should sit down and negotiate with its crews around the globe to resolve the issues that are in dispute,” he added.
“Mr Nilaus had an opportunity to bring the Australian dispute to a close today, but he chose to go on a river cruise with the same middle managers who are putting his company’s operations in Australia at risk through termination of the entire workforce’s employment agreements,” Mr Crumlin said.
“Global transport unions are closely watching Svitzer’s actions in Australia, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom and we will continue to hold management at all levels to account for the breakdown of cooperation and goodwill which they are responsible for,” Mr Crumlin said.
MEDIA CONTACT: Tom Harris-Brassil – 0401 834 924