Toll Group has announced its intention to sell its assets for $45 million to rival Sea Swift, saying 150 jobs will be lost.
Maritime Union of Australia NT branch secretary Thomas Mayor said there had been no commitment from Sea Swift to keep on Toll employees whose jobs were on the line.
“We’re going to arrange to meet with Sea Swift and we want some answers for our members about their commitment to these Territorian workers,” he said.
“They need to understand there are Territorian workers here, and we want to understand what is at stake for them, will they still have their jobs servicing Territory communities.”
Mr Mayor said the announcement had come out of the blue and would mark the end of Territory-owned transport.
“Toll, which was once Perkins Shipping, has been a Territory company for a long time, so it’s a sad day,” he said.
Toll Group spokesperson Christopher Whitefield said the company would try to find jobs for affected employees elsewhere in the company.
“It is likely that anywhere up to 150 people will be made redundant but where possible we’ll look to redeploy people across our business,” he said.
“There are other [Toll Group] businesses that do exist in Australia where we will where possible work to redeploy people.
“We’re in direct communication with our staff about what changes might be happening depending on the sale which we’ll find out about early next year.”
The sale of Toll Group to rival Sea Swift will create a freight monopoly for the remote NT town of Nhulunbuy, a member of the region’s Chamber of Commerce says.
There is only one road into Nhulunbuy that has weight restrictions and is impassable in the wet season, so the town relies on barges for more than 90 per cent of its freight.
Toll Group and Sea Swift both run barge services to Nhulunbuy and the competition has lowered prices.
The former chairman of the East Arnhem Chamber of Commerce and Industry and current committee member, Dave Suter, said he expected the cost of living in Nhulunbuy to increase significantly.
“The issue of concern that people are raising with me at the moment is the perception that the cost may increase,” he said.
Mr Suter said there had been significant price changes previously when two barge companies ran services to Nhulunbuy.
“When another operator came in the prices were reduced, so people were just concerned that there may be an altering in prices,” he said.
Mr Suter said while it was disappointing news, he was not surprised because the volume of freight into the small town was not enough to support two companies.
“I think it was a pretty bold move of Sea Swift to come in here at a time of depressed market, but obviously the had their business model all sorted out, and we know the outcome of their business model today,” he said.
Mr Suter said he had dealt with Sea Swift as a member of the Chamber of Commerce and hoped they would offer reasonable prices.
“It’s just a waiting game to see what Sea Swift will announce in regard to any freight charges and costings,” he added.