|Issue No 41||26 November 1999|
Tug Action Hits Sydney Harbour
By Zoe Reynolds
MUA deckhands on tug services are taking protected action over proposals to cut crew in the new enterprise agreement negotiations.
Ports in NSW and WA commenced on Friday, November 19 and affect the ports of Sydney, Port Kembla and Fremantle in the west. The tug action will affect shipping in Port Botany and Sydney Harbour.
What's at issue? MUA tug delegate, Peter Lamond says key safety and industrial issues are the real reasons behind the dispute:
Lamond, works for the Patrick of the tug industry- Adsteam. Not only has the company attempted to have its 350 employees sign individually to an enterprise agreement currently under negotiation, they are pushing for labour cuts that would leave only one crew on deck during heavy seas or an emergency.
This is despite an ITF international survey on towage showing that four person tug crew is the norm, even after the introduction of new technology.
"Some countries have got magnetic hook ups for the lines," Lamond says. "Here we've got the same tired, old tugs we've had since the 80s. Even the new ones they're getting built don't have the new technology.
"They say the engineer can come on deck and assist, but if the alarm goes off he's straight off to the engineer room leaving deckhands like us in a precarious position. It's unworkable and it's unsafe.
"We've had a tanker run aground off Townsville. We were working in very bad conditions. The line snapped and we had to repair it on the job. It involved everyone on the tug but the skipper, with waves coming over the bow and water gushing everywhere. In sloppy, rough weather you've got one man running the break on the hook and the other fellow sending off lines. If you lose the second man, you're in all sorts of trouble. It would be too dangerous to carry on."
Adsteam, Townsville can do up to seven vessels on a day. When in port all crew are employed full time on maintenance - chipping and painting the tug as well as assisting the engineer with the oil change, bilge cleaning, changing filters etc.
"We're tried to convince the company of the stupidity of cutting crew," says Lamond. "But I think they wanted to push us into a blue. Their only motivation is profit. We're just not prepared to jeopardise people's lives for that."
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Last Modified: 15 Nov 2005