Smit Lamnalco Towage (Australia) Pty Ltd has been notified by the Australian Institute of Marine and Power Engineers (AIMPE) of their intention to take protected industrial action within the company’s Gladstone operations.
Engineers will stop today for 6 consecutive 1 hour periods from 0700 until 1300, in an attempt to bring Queensland’s largest port to a halt.
Enterprise Agreement negotiations
Negotiations for renewal of the Enterprise Agreement between the parties commenced in July last year, with some 19 days of negotiations having been undertaken over the last 10 months to no avail. In December 2020, Smit Lamnalco lodged an application with the Fair Work Commission, seeking their assistance in conciliating the enterprise bargaining. Despite the assistance of Fair Work over multiple months, little progress has been made with AIMPE.
Regional Industrial Relations Manager Jared Laughlin said “Of the roughly 50 items presented in AIMPE’s original log of claims, I would be surprised if we have reached agreement on a handful, despite almost 12 months of talking”.
AIMPE took the highly unusual step of filing for Protected Action Ballot Orders (PABO) late on Christmas Eve 2020, even though there was a substantive pay-rise offer on the table that had not been responded to, and before the current EA had even expired.
Generous working conditions
Smit Lamnalco Engineers in Gladstone already enjoy some of Australia’s most generous working conditions, including salaries in excess of $238,000 (which includes 15.5% superannuation), a 3 week on and 3 week off roster system, as well as generous redundancy provisions and allowances.
Smit Lamnalco Managing Director David Fethers said “It isn’t lost on me that this is the same union and same union official who presided over the loss of 52 of their members’ jobs in Port Hedland in 2014. We have a good team of Engineers in Gladstone, and it is unfortunate that they are taking counsel from individuals who may not have their best interest at heart.”
In 2017, following an incident where two tugs collided whilst conducting towage in the port, Smit Lamnalco conducted a deep-dive into maintenance management and practices. Changes were made to modernise and streamline the company’s maintenance strategy, as well as the addition of extra resources in the form of a shore based maintenance team. It is these improvements which AIMPE are railing against.
“AMSA and MSQ, quite rightly at the time, issued the company with improvement and deficiency notices following the collision incident. It is quite ridiculous of AIMPE to now be suggesting that we return to that way of working. We simply will not compromise on the safety of our operations, in order to satisfy the empire building desires of a particular union”, Mr Fethers said.
Many people employed at Gladstone
Smit Lamnalco provides employment for more than 100 tug crew within the Gladstone operation.
Gladstone General Manager Peter Sedgwick said “It is unnecessary to take industrial action when the parties are meeting with each other and using the Fair Work Commission to get to a final agreement. We are all working towards a common goal to ensure long term, secure employment while maintaining safe and efficient operations in the Port of Gladstone. It would be better if AIMPE focus on that rather than continue to take unnecessary action.”
Globally, Smit Lamnalco is the leading provider of safe and efficient towage and associated marine services to the oil and gas terminal industry. With more than 225 vessels and close to 3000 staff worldwide, Smit Lamnalco is dedicated to providing marine support services tailored to the operational needs of global customers in local markets. Active in almost 30 countries, Smit Lamnalco specialises in bringing international standards on safety, logistics, mooring and towage to onshore and offshore operations in challenging environments.