Maritime unions in Canada have taken solidarity action in support of colleagues in Australia sacked after an Australian shipping company decided to replace them with a foreign crew on flag of convenience (FoC) vessels – employed on lower pay and with poorer conditions.
The Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) has condemned the decision by the BHP and Bluescope companies to stop using Australian crew on its shipping vessels – ending 100 years of Australian-crewed iron ore shipping. The union is calling on the Australian government to bring in legislation to protect Australian maritime jobs and has set up a “Save Australian Shipping” jobs embassy outside Parliament House in Canberra.
While the MUA held rallies in Canberra, Melbourne and Port Kembla, Canadian maritime unions expressed their solidarity in rallies in Toronto, Ottawa and Vancouver backing the call to protect domestic maritime workers working in their domestic waters.
Commenting on the decision of the companies to flag out their crews, ITF president and MUA national secretary Paddy Crumlin said they had: “invested in areas where you don’t pay taxes, where you’ve got no legal rights, where you’ve got no labour rights … We’re fighting for [those workers] too, and their right to work in their own country, in their own shipping lines, on their own roads, in their own trucks, in their own manufacturing.”
Meanwhile, the ITF is trying to investigate claims by a foreign crew on board a Liberia-flagged, Greek-owned ship at a BHP coal terminal in Queensland that they have received no pay or food, and have to rely on a food budget of AUSD4 per day. So far, BHP is blocking the ITF’s requests to inspect the vessel.