Flag of convenience shipping sinks seafarers' jobs
by David Hauser The Australian company, Intercontinental Ship Management P/L (ISM) has decided to buckle to the Federal Government's fierce campaign to end the careers of the Australian seafarers they employ, by flagging out the remaining vessels under the Tongan Flag of Convenience (FOC). According to Dean Summers, International Transport Workers Federation (ITF) co-ordinator in Sydney, an additional 50 Australian seafarers have been put out of work due to the hostile attack on the Maritime Union of Australia by the Federal Government. This comes after a written statement in 1997 by then General Manager Chris Sorenson, "ISM can not support change that would result in Australian jobs in coastal shipping being replaced by low-waged workers from overseas". For those readers who don't know of Chris Soerenson, he is now employed by the Canadian Shipping Line, responsible for the attempted removal of the crew of the CSL Yarra last year in Port Pirie, South Australia. The motivation for this manoeuvre is purely a financial one, due to the fact that Tongan Seafarers get paid only US$186 (approx. A$300) per month and Trainees only US$20 (approx. A$32) per month. That is a saving from the ITF agreed rates of US$1300 (more than A$2000) per month per seafarer. But there is an easy solution to this problem. The Federal Government could stop this abuse of foreign seafarers and reclaim Australian jobs in one swift move: THEY COULD STOP ISSUING SINGLE VOYAGE AND MULTIPLE VOYAGE PERMITS! As soon as that happens, and I know under the current government it is NOT likely, then Australian Seafarers can reclaim the jobs that are rightfully theirs. If only Australian ships are operating on our coast then there can be no exploitation of poorly paid foreign crews, and the cost of manning ships will be uniform. But the problems that can arise from this move go even deeper. Tongan flagged vessels have been arrested, detained and investigated over a series of allegations. Ships operating under this flag have been caught running drugs, guns and are strongly suspected of having provided safe passage for some of the suspects responsible for the September 11 attacks in the USA. But this does not seem to worry the Howard Government or its incompetent Transport Minister John Anderson, who is responsible for the issuing of permits that allow these vessels operate on the Australian coast. The Maritime Union of Australia has protested against the company at their St Leonards offices in Sydney last week, on February 27. More actions are likely. If the government and shipping lines get away with this, then it will not be long before the government gives the OK to other employers to replace their workforces with "guest" workers on starvation wages slaving under 19th century working conditions. This is a problem for all Australian workers and the removal of this completely spineless Federal Government is the first step for all Australians to secure a safe and secure Coastal Trade Shipping environment for our future.