The Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) said it will not go on strike until late June at the earliest, giving mining giants a 30-day breather to come up with some solution and avoid export interruption at Australia’s highest tonnage port.
Two weeks ago tugboat workers at the port had supported a ballot to take protected industrial action if negotiations over wages and annual leave entitlements with North American shipping company Teekay failed to deliver results.
However, MUA’s announcement that there would be no immediate strike removed the immediate danger of suspending operations at one of Australia’s most important export ports, which would have interrupted the most lucrative export chain — the shipping of iron ore to China.
”The MUA has just agreed to suspend taking industrial action . . . for a 30-day period from today,” a union spokeswoman said.
”This is in the spirit of continuing fruitful negotiations. The MUA will also apply to the Fair Work Commission tomorrow for a 30-day extension to the current industrial action order.”
According to the article on The Sydney Morning Herald, the news of a 30-day extension was welcomed by big miners such as BHP Billiton, Fortescue Metals Group and Atlas Iron, who stand to lose millions of dollars a day in case of a strike at Port Hedland.
Federal Employment Minister Eric Abetz said it would be irresponsible for tugboat workers to bring the port to a halt with strike action.
”There are many things in life that may be legal, but they may still be absolutely and utterly irresponsible,” he said.
”To prejudice the goose that is laying the golden egg for us would be basically economic vandalism at its worst.”