The Guardian • Issue #2033


  • The Guardian
  • Issue #2033

In a massive escalation of the simmering industrial conflict being waged by Svitzer Towage’s Australian management against local tugboat crew, the company gave notice that it would lock-out its entire national seagoing workforce on 18th November, effectively destroying its capacity to deliver towage services and throwing Australian supply chains into disarray. Svitzer receives taxpayer funding from the federal government and provides essential towage services at every mainland port in Australia, and is a wholly owned subsidiary of the global shipping conglomerate AP Moller Maersk, headquartered in Copenhagen. As an arm of this multi-billion-dollar behemoth, Svitzer Australia funnels hundreds of millions of dollars back to Denmark and pays almost no tax in Australia. The company’s Australian management has spent the past three years refusing to finalise a new Employment Agreement to cover tugboat crews at seventeen ports around the country, effectively giving these workers a wage-freeze amidst soaring inflation and massive corporate profits during a COVID-boom for shipping and logistics companies. At every turn, the three maritime unions – Maritime Union of Australia, the Australian Institute of Marine Power Engineers, and the Australian Maritime Officers Union – have sought to drag management back to the negotiating table and work on a mutually agreeable outcome.

Experienced nurses and midwives are out of pocket around $80,000 each due to the NSW government’s public sector wage caps suppressing their income over the past decade. A new report into the impact of wage caps, since their introduction in 2012, shows public sector nurses and midwives will suffer a cumulative loss of $120,000 in pay by 2023-24, while their superannuation balances will be a further $12,500 worse off. Dr Jim Stanford, economist and director of the Centre for Future Work at the Australia Institute, acknowledged the outlook and says it could have been avoided. “It is clear the NSW government relies upon harsh public sector pay restrictions as a matter of political and fiscal convenience, without negotiation or consideration of normal wage determinants such as rising cost of living […],” said Dr Stanford. “The consequences are severe for public sector nurses and midwives, and get worse over time because the sustained pay caps have a cumulating effect. Not only are wage gains in any particular year lower than they would be under normal circumstances, but the base level of pay falls further and further behind where they would be otherwise.”

PARASITE(S) OF THE WEEK: As Anthony Albanese readied his autograph book for his big moment with Xi Jinping at the G20 meeting in Bali last week, the threat to the planet from climate change hung like the threat it is to us all. At the same time the big resources transnationals in Australia were threatening legal action using the Investor-State Dispute Settlement clauses in trade agreements. This allows companies with investments in Australia to sue the government if a trade deal affects their profits.

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