After nearly four years of negotiations between Australian unions and management, the tug subsidiary of global maritime and logistics behemoth AP Moller Maersk, has abandoned Maersk Group’s principles on respecting fundamental labour rights and constructive employee relations.
Svitzer Australia has announced that on Friday (November 18) it will indefinitely lockout its entire Australian workforce.
This lockout would put nearly 600 crew members out of work in the midst of a cost of living crisis, staggeringly while the AP Moller Maersk group continues to announce record profit projections and after taking in a record USD $20 billion in profit last year.
The global union movement won’t stand for this.
Stand in solidarity with the Svitzer Australia crew now and sign your union onto the Open Letter to AP Moller-Mærsk Chair of the Board, Robert Mærsk Uggla.
To: Robert Mærsk Uggla, Chair of the Board, A.P. Moller – Maersk
We know that at AP Moller-Mærsk you have set high benchmarks for your group’s global values.
We regret to inform you that after nearly four years of negotiations between three Australian unions and local Svitzer management in Australia, that the decision of Svitzer Australia to lockout its entire Australian workforce has abandoned the Maersk group’s commitments and principles on respecting fundamental labour rights and constructive employee relations.
The commitments made by your company in Maersk’s Sustainability Report, 2021 promises, "Constructive employee relations can only exist by respecting the rights to freedom of association and collective bargaining, which means actively engaging with trade unions."
The lock out of crew members, represented by the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA), the Australian Institute of Marine and Power Engineers (AIMPE) and the Australian Maritime Officers (AMOU), directly undermines the collective bargaining process and your own commitment to social dialogue.
And this is not the first instance of Svitzer Australia's defiance of Maersk’s own principles.
Earlier this year, the company applied to Australia’s Fair Work Commission to terminate the collective bargaining agreement covering its entire Australian workforce, pushing crew onto the legal minimum award conditions. The company proposed slashing wages 47%, reducing safety standards, including minimum crewing numbers, and casualising secure jobs.
Svitzer Australia claims these steps are in an attempt to “remove restrictive work practices”. The global labour movement has challenged time and time again the insecurity, lack of safety, and economic instability of non-standard forms of employment for both workers and companies.
In a statement regarding the lockout, Managing Director of Svitzer Australia Nicolaj Nones noted, “We remain a committed employer that provides well-paying, highly regarded, Australian maritime jobs. We are only seeking to make common-sense changes that are necessary for Svitzer to operate and compete effectively and, in-turn, protect jobs.” This goal can only be realised by continuing to engage with dialogue with unions and honouring fundamental labour rights.
As Svitzer turns to its workforce to update their company principles, the actions being taken in Australia cannot be the foundation for employee relations. Svitzer Australia’s aggressive decision has consequences on Maersk Group’s operations all over the world.
Svitzer senior management in the UK have proven that constructive, good faith negotiations and engagement with unions result in solutions. Unite the Union secured improved pay and conditions when both parties came to the table. This process must be the model for Svitzer operations across the world.
With an indefinite lockout looming - that would put nearly 600 crew members out of work during a cost of living crisis - we write to you to express our concern and condemnation at the treatment of these workers and the damage that this lockout will cause to the Australian economy, to critical supply chains and to Maersk’s global reputation.
We call on you to step in and instruct Svitzer Australia to call off the lockout and return to the negotiating table so that an agreement can be finalised.
We look forward to hearing from you.