Svitzer tug boat crews in fresh strikes

Teesport facing Easter blockage as Svitzer tug boat crews call more strikes in pay battle

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Teesport is facing severe delays and disruption during the busy Easter period as tugboat crews employed by Svitzer Marine take fresh strike action in a dispute over pay.

The crews, who are responsible for ensuring that container ships can enter and leave the port safely, are facing a pay freeze. This is despite Svitzer Marine’s parent company, shipping giant A.P. Moller-Maersk, reporting record profits of $16.5 billion last year (£13.9 billion), helped by increased volumes during the pandemic.

The workers, members of Unite, will strike for four days in the Easter week beginning at 8am on Wednesday, April 13 and ending on Sunday, April 17 just before 8am.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said, “This is another example of blatant corporate greed. Svitzer and Moller-Maersk banked fat profits on the backs of workers who kept going during the pandemic, but now deny these same workers their justified pay rise. It’s a disgrace and we will never accept this.

“Our members will be receiving the full and total support of Unite until Svitzer makes a fair offer to this workforce,” she added.

The workers have been forced to call fresh action as their attempts to secure a negotiated settlement have been spurned by Svitzer’s management. Having already taken strike action in March, Unite suspended action planned for March 26 with an offer to the company to attend talks at conciliation service Acas. However, Svitzer refused to even attend the proposed talks.

The dispute is highlighting growing concerns about the creation of a freeport in Teesside, and the promises that it would bring better wages for local workers. Such aspirations will be undermined if Svitzer and other employers are allowed to force workers into a substantial real terms pay cut.

Unite regional officer Pat McCourt said, “Unite has made every attempt to resolve this dispute through negotiations, but Svitzer has rejected the offer to even meet with Unite.

“The strike action will result in Teesport coming to a virtual standstill, but this dispute is entirely of Svitzer’s own making,” he added. “Svitzer can avoid strikes occurring and the disruption it will cause, it simply needs to make a reasonable pay offer and enter into negotiations.”

As part of the campaign to secure a pay rise, a delegation of Unite reps travelled to Copenhagen in Denmark for the Maersk-Moller annual general meeting on March 15 to raise awareness of the dispute with the company’s shareholders.

The industrial action at Teesport is also now part of an international campaign, with other unions as far away as Australia reporting bad behaviour by Svitzer (Moller- Maersk).

By Ryan Fletcher

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