07/08/2014 - 15:17

‘Glitch’ stops Port Hedland strike

07/08/2014 - 15:17

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An intended strike by tugboat engineers at Port Hedland, which had threatened to stop exports of iron ore worth $100 million a day, has been called off because of a technicality.

An intended strike by tugboat engineers at Port Hedland, which had threatened to stop exports of iron ore worth $100 million a day, has been called off because of a technicality.

An official who drafted the Australian Institute of Marine & Power Engineers’ strike notice made an error in filling out dates in the forms, forcing them to withdraw the action.

Union spokesman Andrew Williamson told Business News the union would continue to negotiate with US company Teekay Shipping while preparing for possible strike action.

“It’s a glitch,” Mr Williamson said.

“The official in question made the error of not counting the first day when it was declared by the AEC at 10am; he went to the following day, so consequently the notices that were given on the Tuesday this week for action on Saturday are void, it should have been issued on Monday for action on Friday.”

Mr Williamson said the AIMPE would refile paperwork to potentially pursue another strike, but wouldn’t make a decision until discussions with its members and Teekay had been held.

He said if AIMPE members decided to strike, the earliest possible starting date would be mid September.

The 56 tugboat engineers who belong to the AIMPE union are negotiating with Teekay for a 3.5 per cent yearly pay rise and a cap on shifts to 12 hours.

Mr Williamson said the port was so busy, Teekay was choosing to pay penalty payments for engineers who work longer than 14 hours.

“Those penalty payments are meant to act as a disincentive for the company to go outside 14 hours, but they seem prepared because the port’s booming, just to pay it, well that’s not addressing the underlying issue which is the fatigue that’s been generated,” he said.

Mr Williamson said tugboat engineers were paid a base salary of $225,000 per year and worked 28 days on followed by 28 days off.

He said reports of salaries nearing $400,000 were mischievous, as while workers received overtime on top of base salaries, higher figures included subsidised housing costs.

“They’re factoring the cost of accommodation to inflate it, to make it look like these guys are on monstrous salaries,” Mr Williamson said.

“Now I don’t, and no-one can dispute that $225,000 is a significant amount of money, but it’s another step to say they’re earning $370,000.

“Penalty payments are nowhere near that so it’s the provision of the housing that inflates the figure and why people are shaking their heads wondering who’s telling the truth.”

The Pilbara Ports Authority, which formed last month after Port Hedland and Dampier port authorities amalgamated, said the two ports achieved a total import and export of 52.1 million tonnes in July, of which 48.3 million tonnes were iron ore exports.

The Port of Port Hedland achieved a record-breaking export for July of 37 million tonnes, a 35 per cent increase on the same period last year.

The Port of Dampier, dropped one per cent in July compared to last year, exporting 15.1 million tonnes.

Imports totalled 57,000 tonnes, an increase of 20,000 tonnes or 54 per cent from the same month in 2013.

 

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