#Maritime Union of Australia#Teekay Shipping#Port Hedland#Port Hedland

[UPDATE] Australian Iron Ore Port Strike Put Off For Now

The Maritime Union of Australia (MUA), which represents the deckhands of the tugboat operator Teekay Shipping in Port Hedland, has agreed to push back t...

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|May 22|magazine5 min read

The Maritime Union of Australia (MUA), which represents the deckhands of the tugboat operator Teekay Shipping in Port Hedland, has agreed to push back the port strike for 30 days, until the end of June. However, the MUA is still seeking a 30-day extension on an existing approval for a strike to give more time for talks with Teekay.

Port Hedland is Australia’s biggest iron ore port, responsible for more than half of Australia’s iron ore exports. BHP Billiton and Fortescue, along with Atlas Iron, would all be gravely affected by the strike. Deckhands have threatened to strike for up to seven days, and at $100 million a day in iron ore sales at stake, these iron ore giants are not pleased.

"There is something wrong with our industrial relations laws when a small group of 45 people who would like to only work 22 weeks a year and be paid a base rate about three times the base wage of a first year nurse...can hold to ransom an industry that generates more export earnings than any other," Fortescue CEO Nev Power said.

Currently, deckhands work for 28 days, and then get 28 days off. They are paid around A$135,000 ($124,400) a year. Their demands include a 20 percent pay increase and 4 more weeks of holiday time. The deckhands and MUA have justified these demands by stating the long hours worked are the equivalent to what people usually put in over 54 weeks.

Currently, Fortescue is preparing to apply to the Fair Work labor tribunal in an effort to stop the strike, citing the industrial action taken by MUA would significantly harm the company, which is not directly involved in the dispute or talks.

"In the event of a strike, Fortescue will be forced to consider standing down its operations and the associated workforces for indefinite periods of time," Power said.

Iron ore is Australia’s biggest export earner, and a major source of royalties and taxes. These giant mining companies could also cite these as reasons to the labor tribunal, or possibly the government, for stopping the strike.