Monday, January 11, 2016
Melbourne's busy container port will be forced to a standstill on Wednesday when tugboat engineers walk off the job.
The strike comes amid an escalating national fight between the engineers and their employer, Svitzer Australia, which runs tugboats at several east-coast ports.
Strikes have already halted port activity in Geelong, Sydney and Newcastle this week. But Wednesday's 12-hour strike in Melbourne is expected to have the biggest impact.
From midday to midnight, delays will plague the Port of Melbourne because tugboats that tow commercial carriers and tankers will be inoperative.

Svitzer Australia is the sole tugboat operator at the Port of Melbourne, the busiest port in the nation. Nearly 7000 containers and 1000 motor vehicles move through the port every day.
The dispute is over unsuccessful negotiations for a new workplace deal. Engineers have rejected the company's attempts to bring them onto the same agreement as other crew on the three-person tugboats – deckhands and skippers – due to concerns it could lead to inferior conditions.
Ports Australia has condemned the tugboat engineers' actions for recklessness and "holding Australia's major ports to ransom".
"It is highly irresponsible for this union, which has a very small presence in the overall port community to bring everything to a standstill over a structural matter relating to their agreement," Ports Australia chief David Anderson said.

"Svitzer's proposal is not attacking work conditions or remuneration, it is about bringing three-man crews of tugs under one agreement … it is not sensible or efficient in the context of a crew of three to have to separately negotiate agreements for each crew member."
After negotiations broke down, the engineers voted to commence strikes on Tuesday at ports in Geelong, Sydney and Newcastle.
Further strikes will take place for 12 hours on Wednesday in Brisbane and at the Port of Melbourne.
Australian Institute of Marine and Power Engineers has also notified Svitzer of further strikes, up to 24 hours, over the next seven days.
The union's federal secretary, Martin Byrne, said the company appeared to have walked away from the table and instead wanted to directly ballot employees over the proposed new agreement.
"Members have endorsed an extension of stoppages to Adelaide and West Australian ports of Fremantle and Kwinana, as well as a program of 24-hour stoppages in Newcastle, Brisbane, Melbourne, Geelong and Sydney/Botany from Friday," he said.
"Svitzer is taking the approach that it's their way or the highway."

Despite the escalation of strike action, cruise ships and national security would continue to be exempted, the union said.
Victoria's business lobby has called for an urgent resolution to the dispute, warning strikes will cause costly delays for businesses in retail, manufacturing, agriculture and food that rely on the port.
Source: Sydney Morning Herald
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