06/11/2014 - 12:45

FMG, Teekay slam Port Hedland strike

06/11/2014 - 12:45

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Tugboat operator Teekay Shipping and the world's fourth largest iron ore miner Fortescue Metals Group have condemned the decision of 56 tugboat workers to bring Port Hedland to a halt for four hours next Wednesday .

Port Hedland

Tugboat operator Teekay Shipping and the world's fourth largest iron ore miner Fortescue Metals Group have condemned the decision of 56 tugboat workers to bring Port Hedland to a halt for four hours next Wednesday .

US-based Teekay Shipping said the industrial action by the workers whose salary packages ranged from $280,000-$390,000 a year was regretful.

Teekay said in a statement the impacts of the stoppage would be far reaching across Australia's economy.

"Teekay is surprised and disappointed that the Australian Institute of Marine & Power Engineers has decided to take this action at a time when the Australian Maritime Officers Union and Maritime Union of Australia have endorsed new enterprise agreements in substantially the same terms for their members," a spokesman said.

Fortescue Metals Group chief executive Nev Power said FMG, BHP Billiton, Atlas Iron and BC Iron, which all export iron ore through the port, had become collateral damage.

"This sort of industrial action damages Australia's reputation as a place to do business and it has the potential to hurt thousands of innocent employees in the Pilbara who work for the companies affected by the strike," Mr Power said.

Next week's stop work action falls short of an extended strike threatened in August by the Australian Institute of Marine & Power Engineers, before a clerical error forced the union to withdraw action.

Union spokesman Andrew Williamson said the tugboat workers had agreed to stop work from 6am to 10am on Wednesday November 12.

He said the timing was chosen because it was the soonest the union could legally do so, not because it fell on the morning major Port Hedland exporter FMG was holding its annual general meeting in Perth.

“It’s a shot across the bow,” Mr Williamson said.

“There’s been a series of meetings where there’s been some progress made, but not on those big-ticket items.”

He said increasing workers pay had always been a secondary consideration and the major sticking point was capping shifts at 12 hours.

“The fatigue is just systemic in the port now with the extra throughput of iron ore,” Mr Williamson said.

“I can’t say we’ve got an agreement on it, but if we can get a landing on fatigue I think you’ll find we’ll be content to take a very moderate salary increase ... in the order of 3.5 per cent.

“We had claims on the table in the order of 6 per cent.

“We’re prepared to forgo the penalty payments and just have a normalisation of our hours. Teekay want the flexibility to work up to 14 hours and then pay penalty payments.”

Port Hedland is one of Australia’s busiest ports and exports almost one third of the world’s seaborne iron ore.

BHP Billiton and FMG have been ramping up exports out of Port Hedland, leading to the port exporting a record breaking 38.1 million tonnes of iron ore last month, an increase in 29 per cent from the same period last year.

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