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Issue #1785      July 12, 2017

Offshoring as crew dumped

The Turnbull government must stand up for Australian jobs in blue water shipping after its administration of coastal shipping rules encouraged a major international employer to dump the crew on another Australian vessel.

The Canadian Steamship Lines (CSL) Thevenard recently sailed to China, purportedly for dry-docking, but the Aussie crew members were notified yesterday of their sacking and given their flights home.

Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) national secretary Paddy Crumlin said the Turnbull government could not allow the offshoring of jobs to continue by issuing temporary licences that allow cheap, foreign labour to be used instead of Aussie vessels and crew.

“The MUA is disgusted at the Turnbull government’s wilful indifference to the plight of Australian seafarers and the Transport Minister must immediately cease issuing temporary licenses under the Coastal Trading ACT,” said Crumlin.

“The government needs to act in the national interest by ceasing the destruction of the blue water shipping industry by allowing companies to use the cheapest, most highly exploited crews and a tax avoidance industry backing these ships.

“The issuing of temporary licences is done by the government of the day. They have the power to deny companies such as CSL and if Turnbull and his ministers won’t do it then the government needs to change in favour of one that stands up for Australian jobs.”

Crumlin said exploited crew on Flag of Convenience (FOC) vessels earn as little as $1.20 an hour, have less training and are often unaware of our fragile coastal environment. They do not meet national security screening appled to Australian resident seafarers and are directly making Australian seafarers unemployed in effectively taking their jobs under this industry of rorting and vandalising Australian workers’ rights, a situation he described as a national disgrace.

“Australian workers cannot compete with slave labour and systemic tax avoidance under the FOC system. We must maintain our blue water shipping industry on the grounds of national security, fuel security, protecting Australian jobs and the environment,” he said.

ITF Cabotage Task Force Chair and Seafarers’ International Union of Canada (SIU) president James Given said: “Despite pressure from shippers to decrease costs, CSL must provide international leadership and maintain decent standards of employment rather than engage in a race to the bottom.”

ITF Maritime Coordinator Jacqueline Smith said: “The conservative government in Australia clearly has no intention to support its national shipping despite the importance maritime has for Australia. However, CSL has had a longstanding relationship with MUA and we expect them to return to engagement on the long term maintenance of cabotage and Australian shipping.”

The MUA remains concerned that international companies still use 457 visa holders on other vessels in its fleet that are trading on the Australian coast.

Crumlin wrote to Immigration Minister Peter Dutton in January urging the Department of Immigration and Border Protection to undertake an investigation into possible rorting of the 457 visa program.

“Those jobs should be filled by Australia workers first. That’s why cabotage rules exist and the intent of the law needs to be followed by companies and governments alike,” he said.

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