By Meghann Papa

On 12 January 2015 Svitzer decided to withdraw the Greenfields Agreement that would cover all new employees on the Gorgon Project at Barrow Island, Western Australia.  Svitzer's withdrawal occurred 5 hours after the AMOU reached an agreement with the Company, on all terms and conditions relating to the Greenfields Agreement.

A Greenfields Agreement is an enterprise agreement that is made between a union(s) and a new enterprise of an employer before any employees are employed.

Svitzer obtained a new contract with Chevron Australia to provide towage and pilot boat services on the Gorgon oil and gas project at Barrow Island.  As this was a new project and Svitzer had not employed any employees for the project, a Greenfields Agreement could be implemented.  The Company advised the Unions in 2013 that they were interested in negotiating a Greenfields Agreement with the three Maritime Unions.

The AMOU, AIMPE & MUA had been in discussions with Svitzer for the Greenfields Agreement for approximately 18 months.  However, official negotiations did not commence until October 2014.

Despite the AMOU reaching an agreement on the Greenfields Agreement with Svitzer, the Company advised that they would be introducing "Partnership" arrangements instead of a Greenfields Agreement as they were unable to reach agreement with all 3 Unions.

The Unions took Svitzer to the Fair Work Commission in January 2015.  Unfortunately, the Commission was unable to assist the Unions in their claim as the Fair Work legislation does not provide Unions with any bargaining rights during greenfields negotiations.

"Partnership" agreements is a serious concern for the AMOU as they fall outside traditional employment arrangements, as "Partners" are not deemed to be employees .  Thereby, losing a number of employee's rights and entitlements, such as:

  • Cover for unfair dismissal and redundancy;
  • Superannuation;
  • Sick leave/Carers leave;
  • Workers Compensation;
  • Maternity/Paternity Leave;
  • Long Service Leave;
  • Compassionate Leave;
  • Allowances and Penalty Payments;
  • Reimbursement of Travel Expenses;
  • Consultation and Dispute Resolutions process;
  • Notice in lieu of termination;
  • Industrial and Protective Clothing;

Svitzer's main selling point to attract individuals to these arrangements are that Partners can "determine who they work with and how best to do the work that needs to be done.  Svitzer will hand over the day to day management of their vessels to partnerships."  Under a Partnership Agreement you will be responsible for:

  • Day to day operations of the tug or pilot boat;
  • Maintenance of Svitzer's tug or pilot boat;
  • Upholding high safety standards;
  • Ensuring the clients are being serviced;
  • Provide crew management, technical management and towage/pilot services 24x7 in accordance with directions given by Svitzer or Chevron;
  • Meeting or exceeding KPI's;
  • Paying your own Superannuation;
  • Professional Indemnity Insurance Expenses;
  • Travel Expenses to Perth, for those that live interstate;
  • Income Protection Insurance Expenses;
  • Rosters; and
  • Paying your own tax and GST to the Australian Tax Office;

If a crew member calls in sick, as an employee, the Company is responsible for finding a replacement crew member.  Under a Partnership arrangement the responsibility is on you, the worker.

If a you are injured at work, as an employee, the Company is responsible and liable for Workers Compensation Insurance.  Under a partnership arrangement the responsibility and liability of the insurance is on the worker.  If you do not have the appropriate insurance then you will not be paid any income for the time that you have off work and/or any medical treatment.  It will be at your own expense.

Rivtow is also offering these types of arrangements to individuals for towage services in Port Hedland.

There are a number of questions that need to be asked before even considering entering in to these types of arrangements:

  • What are the annual income increases the Company will be providing?
  • Who determines the annual increases?
  • Do you have the ability to negotiate the terms and conditions of the contract or are they set by the Company?
  • Who is responsible to provide all Industrial and Protective Clothing?
  • Who is responsible for the maintenance costs of the vessels?
  • Who is responsible for any damage incurred to the vessel?
  • Who is responsible for the replacement of equipment?
  • Who is responsible for Certificates of Competency revalidation expenses?
  • Who is responsible for AMSA medical expenses?
  • What financial risk do you incur?
  • What is required if either party wants to terminate the Partnership Agreement?
  • What are you personally liable and responsible for?

Partnership arrangements do not benefit workers.  The only one who benefits from these types of arrangements are the Companies.  Individuals need to consider the amount of responsibility and liability they are willing to incur, and the rights and entitlements they are willing to lose before entering in to a "Partnership" agreement.  Yes you may be able to choose who you work with, but is it worth it?