Up to 100 supporters and Maritime Union of Australia members gathered outside of the Tomago Smelter yesterday at short notice to protest the sacking of the CSL Melbourne crew.
The CSL Melbourne, like the MV Portland, is a coastal trading vessel that has been allowed to contravene coastal trading laws by being granted another Temporary Licence by the Turnbull Government.
The vessel was engaged to carry alumina from Gladstone to the Tomago Smelter, which is operated by Pacific Aluminium, a wholly owned of subsidiary of global multi-billion dollar miner Rio Tinto.
A host of speakers turned up to address the crowd outside of the gates of the smelter 20 kilometres outside of the centre of Newcastle.
Kicking off speeches was Newcastle Branch Secretary Glen Williams who called on the the Turnbull Government to immediately revoke the Temporary Licences, which allowed Rio Tinto to sacked the Australian crew.
Williams mentioned the vessel that had been chartered to replaced the CSL Melbourne, was tied to a company which had a suspicious death on board in Newcastle at the end of last year.
“It has a web of deceit in ownership, it is a classic FOC vessel – it is Greek Owned, it’s a Liberian flag…One of the cranes is completely deficient, it has a full Filipino crew and we have no doubts that we’ll be finding issues with that crew if you went on board an investigated. They will be exploited, they will be stood over,” he said.
“Pacific Aluminium have engaged the lowest of the low when it comes to international shipping operators, to replace an Australian crew, who are safe, who are productive, who are efficient.”
Williams was promptly joined by Newcastle Trades Hall Council Secretary Daniel Wallace, AMOU Industrial Officer Robert Coombs and ALP Member for Swansea Yasmin Catley.
Assistant National Secretary Warren Smith had also trekked up to Newcastle to speak to the crowd and he spoke for the need to get rid of the Turnbull Government as it had no regard for Australian workers.
Smith called on the company to come clean on why they would not renew a contract on the CSL Melbourne, disputing the company’s claims.
“They claim the CSL Melbourne was too big for the trade and then go charter a larger foreign vessel to replace it, I mean come on,” he said.
“We are dealing with corporate thuggery of the highest order. We are being replaced by the most exploited workers in the world. Workers who have no say, workers who can’t go to the boss and say, ‘No, I’m not going to do that job because it’s unsafe,” Smith said.
Newcastle local and crewmember of the CSL Melbourne on the off-swing, Craig Brady joined the list of speakers to offer his personal story.
“I’m the only member of the crew here at the moment because those poor blokes who are back there on board are scared there’s going to be goons running up the gangway if they leave to attend this protest rally. And that’s Australia’s industrial relations system in 2016.
“We should be ashamed that we’ve let it get this far.