The Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) is protesting over the federal government’s award of a special license to Pacific Aluminium allowing the company to replace the Australian bulk carrier CSL Melbourne with a foreign vessel.
CSL Melbourne, like the MV Portland before it, will contravene Australian coastal trading laws after getting a temporary license, according to MUA, which is concerned over 16 Australians from the CSL Melbourne who are now without jobs.
The vessel has been used to transport alumina from Gladstone to the Tomago Smelter near Newcastle for the last five years.
Pacific Aluminium, a subsidiary of Rio Tinto, is moving the CSL Melbourne to Singapore, and plans to replace Australian crew with foreign workers for international trades, according to the union.
Crew members are reportedly refusing to sail to Singapore only to be replaced with foreign workers on a foreign vessel flying a Flag of Convenience.
Pacific Aluminium said that its five-year freight contract expired on Dec. 31, and the vessel is too big to service the Tomago smelter.
MUA Assistant National Secretary Warren Smith commented: “This isn’t a good enough explanation for the workers on the vessel or the Newcastle community. It simply doesn’t add up that the foreign ship chartered as a replacement is in fact larger than the CSL Melbourne, when the excuse given is that smaller loads will be carried.”
“This demonstrates beyond doubt that Pacific Aluminium is exploiting coastal trading laws to simply replace Australian seafarers with exploited foreign seafarers on as little as $2/hr, aided and abetted by the Turnbull Government’s administration of the licensing system.
Mr. Smith also criticized the government and lawmakers, saying that Senate was not able to retain Australia’s cabotage laws, which cover trade through domestic ports and the use of both Australian-flagged and Australian-crewed vessels.
“The Senate voted in November to retain these laws yet the Government has again pushed ahead with the issuing of a temporary licence. This is a slap in the face for the Senate and the workers whose jobs are on the chopping block and their friends and families in the local community. The government needs to be reminded that Australian jobs are important – these workers have families, kids, mortgages and bills to pay,” Smith added.