I acknowledge a significant set of events and circumstances affecting maritime workers in my community who work on Newcastle Harbour. Svitzer Towage, which employs over 500 workers nationally, is the sole provider of towage services for commercial shipping in the Newcastle Harbour. As a subsidiary of the global shipping giant AP Moller Maersk, Svitzer Australia is part of a multibillion‑dollar international conglomerate. Last financial year, Maersk's revenue was almost US$62 billion and over the past quarter revenue increased by a whopping 52 per cent and earnings more than doubled compared to the same quarter last year. However, at the same time local Svitzer executives are locked in a long-running dispute with their workforce that is unjust, unreasonable and indefensible. Svitzer Australia has not given its workforce a pay rise since 2019, when the last employment agreement expired. It is now pursuing a course of action in the Fair Work Commission which would deliver pay cuts of almost 50 per cent to their seagoing workforce.
Members will recall that a tugboat crew was sent from Newcastle Harbour to attend the rescue of the Portland Bay cargo ship off the coast of southern Sydney during wild weather in July. The Newcastle crew of SvitzerGlenrock sailed through the night to join the rescue effort near Cronulla, alongside crews aboard another Svitzer tug, theBullara, and two tugs from Engage Marine, theMaritinique andDiamantina. The Premier of New South Wales described those workers on the four tugboats as heroes—and they are. I pay tribute to those workers and commend their professionalism, their skill and their bravery. The crew left their families, sailed into the dark of night, amidst shocking weather conditions, to prevent a humanitarian and environmental disaster that may have unfolded on the shores of the Royal National Park. When the wild weather struck and everyone else headed in, those staunch seafarers headed out. But while they came home to a heroes' welcome, they went back to work later that week with the threat of a pay cut from the bosses at Svitzer.
This company is a complete disgrace. The belligerence and pigheadedness on display from the managers of Svitzer Australia has no place in modern employment practices. We are battling some of the worst economic conditions for the working class we have seen in a generation—real wages have gone backwards while company profits have soared. Svitzer Towage, like many international shipping and logistics companies, has leveraged the COVID supply chain crisis to drive massive profits. Whereas many industries were destroyed by COVID, companies such as Svitzer have been given a licence to print money. It is now well and truly overdue for this company to share its eye-watering profits with its employees in the form of a fair pay rise. It must be a pay rise that takes into account shocking inflation, the spiralling cost of living and the fact that through delaying tactics and litigation its workers have already been denied pay rises in 2020 and 2021.
Last week, Svitzer workers from Newcastle Harbour joined a national Zoom briefing by the ACTU Secretary Sally McManus. The workforce heard from Ms McManus about the national campaign to abolish laws that allow rogue businesses and their belligerent managers to bully and intimidate their employees. I commend the Federal Minister for Workplace and Industrial Relations, Tony Burke, for his speech to the Australian Industry Group on those matters earlier this week. He has drawn a line in the sand on behalf of workers and their unions. My advice to Svitzer Australia and the global leadership of AP Moller Maersk is this: Read the room. Respect your workers. Bargain with their union in good faith. Give them the pay rise that they deserve. You have called them heroes, now pay them.