Strike action delayed at Port Hedland

Industrial action planned by tugboat engineers at Port Hedland has been delayed after an intervention was granted by the Fair Work Commission last night.

The four-hour strike by members of the Australian Institute of Marine Power Engineers (AIMPE) was planned for 6am today in Western Australia, however the industrial action has been postponed for one week.

The four hour strike will halt iron ore shipping operations conducted by BHP, Rio Tinto, and Fortescue Metals Group among other Pilbara-based metal producers, as Teekay is the sole tugboat operator at the iron ore port.

Tugboat operator Teekay Shipping applied for the intervention on the grounds that it had sent a new workplace agreement proposal to AIMPE which will go to a vote this week.

SMH reported the new proposal did not meet demands for a cap of 12 hours on working days, and was not ratified by AIMPE.

Teekay employed tugboat engineers who crew vessels for towing iron ore ships in and out of port have said they are routinely expected to work more than 12 hours per day, sometimes up to 20 hours in a single shift.

Engineers must provide at least three days of notice before any new strike action is called.

AIMPE WA organiser Andrew Williamson said the union members remained strongly opposed to the new deal proposed by Teekay.

“AIMPE is campaigning vigorously for its members to reject the company's proposed agreement,” he said.

Deckhands and officers employed by Teekay have both agreed to new EBA proposals, thanks to ratification by the Maritime Union of Australia and the Australian Maritime Officers Union after 15 months of negotiations and applications to strike.

MUA WA branch secretary Christy Cain said the agreement demonstrated the ability of the MUA to negotiate for a suitable outcome for members.

“Strike action is always a last resort for the MUA and we’re pleased to have won a great outcome for our members without having to take one day’s industrial action,” he said.

“Despite political interference from both the Barnett and Abbott governments, the MUA has been able to sit down with Teekay and reach an agreement that is in both the national interestand the interest of workers.

“Employers across the industry should ignore what Liberal Party-aligned representative groups like the AMMA say about the MUA.

“If an employer can demonstrate a commitment to local jobs, fair wages and family friendly rosters, then we are likely to have very little to argue about.”

The MUA faced intense criticism from the Australian Mines and Metals Association earlier this year, who claimed the MUA refused to negotiate in good faith.

WA Liberal Party senator Linda Reynolds condemned planned strike action by the AIMPE as “irresponsible”.

“While this particular industrial action is only expected to last a few hours, there are concerns this will open the floodgates for more frequent and aggressive industrial action of this nature in the future,” Reynolds said.

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