Major ports in Australia could be brought to a standstill for up to a week if planned strikes by tug boat crews escalate.
A 12-hour strike by tug boat crews begins at the Port of Brisbane at 12:00hrs on Wednesday morning, which is unlikely to impact ship movements, the Brisbane Times reports.
Tug crews have also planned a second 24-hour strike in Brisbane on Friday, and have threatened to strike for up to seven days.
Similar strike action is planned in Adelaide and the ports of Fremantle and Kwinana in Western Australia, plus Newcastle, Melbourne, Geelong and Sydney.
Australia’s Fair Work Commission has given the tug boat crews the right to protected industrial action for strikes of up to seven days, said a spokesman for the Australian Institute of Marine and Power Engineers, which is representing the crews.
The dispute stems from a difference in opinion over enterprise contracts between the crews and their employers.
Svitzer, which operates tug services at the Port of Brisbane and in other Australian ports, wants to force three-person tug crews onto a new single industrial agreement. Traditionally, a tug’s skipper, deckhand and engineer have been represented by three different agreements that recognise their different skills and job functions.
Svitzer’s 600 tug employees in Australia have seven days to vote on whether the single agreement should replace the existing three agreements, reports say.