Lockout threat prompts fears of widespread supply chain disruptions

Peak transport body Road Freight NSW (RFNSW) is holding its breath for an amicable resolution to the escalating industrial dispute between maritime unions and Australia’s main tug boat operator.

Danish giant Svitzer, the largest tugboat operator in Australia, is threatening an indefinite lockout of 590 workers at 17 ports around Australia from midday on Friday in protest against stalled pay negotiations with unions.

“This will have serious ramifications for the Australian economy and the transport industry,” warns RFNSW CEO Simon O’Hara.

“We can’t afford to lose one day, let alone several days. We have already had major issues due to recent floods. It has destroyed crops, roads, rail networks, etc.

Leading into Christmas, O’Hara said the industry can ill-afford to lose any days of productivity due to the industrial action.

“We need to keep Australia moving with deliveries of all items. Some of these items would be replacement goods for the goods lost in the floods.

“We can ill afford for transport companies to become stagnate because of industrial action that is avoidable.

“We need the government, or opposition, to come out strongly and suggest that it doesn’t go ahead. We need the FWC to make a decision urgently to stop this from occurring.

“This will affect our trading partners as well import and export orders. We would become the laughing stock of the world.”

According to a statement from the Maritime Union of Australia, Svitzer bosses failed to even front at a meeting facilitated by the Fair Work Commission today.

“We have seen Svitzer’s international bosses stuff a ransom note in the mail flap of the Australian community on the cusp of Christmas, to shake down the entire nation under threat of economic and social chaos for no greater purpose than their own profiteering,” said MUA national secretary Paddy Crumlin.

Workplace Relations Minister Tony Burke said he was “devastated” at the way the dispute had developed and has urged Svitzer to hold off on locking out its workers until new laws to arbitrate “intractable” industrial disputes are in place.

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