The article below reports on the recent attack by the US-based multinational miner and steel producer Alcoa against the crew of MV Portland and their union, the Maritime Union of Australia, who had conducted a two month struggle opposing the deregulation and destruction of Australia’s maritime industry.
UNIONS are warning “thuggish” workplace tactics won’t be tolerated after Australian workers were forcibly removed from their ship by security guards in the middle of the night.
There are strong concerns after security guards boarded an Australian ship after 1am to forcibly remove a shocked crew — actions described as “outrageous thuggery” by Unions and Labor.
The clandestine actions were carried out so local workers could be sacked, and replaced by cheaper foreign crews.
Skilled, long-term crew members were woken after 1am in the south-west Victorian port of Portland last week by a team of up to 30 security guards who boarded their ship, handed them their passports and forced them down the gangplank.
At the centre of the dispute is a two-month stand-off between the crew of the cargo ship MV Portland and US mining giant Alcoa.
The crew had been staying on board the ship in protest at Alcoa’s decision to switch to a foreign ship and crew.
MUA national secretary, Paddy Crumlin warned action must be taken to prevent future similar raids.
“This is the worst example of guerrilla tactics to get rid of Australian workers since Patricks,” he said.
After the crew was removed, a team of replacement workers, believed to be foreign, was escorted on board.
By dawn, Portland residents awoke to discover the ship that has hauled alumina from Western Australia to Portland’s Alcoa aluminium smelter for the past 27 years had vanished.
And as a signal that this style of tactics would continue — just a few hours later — anotherFOC (Flag of Convenience) ship berthed, bringing Petcoke to Alcoa’s Portland refinery.
The third Alcoa ship’s arrival was labelled “a shameful hat trick” for the US mining giant by The International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) when it emerged the vessel owed its foreign crew at least $190,000.
The Hong Kong registered Gold River berthed just after the MV Portland was taken away by a mystery crew.
Now, union investigations reveal the ship owes thousands in unpaid wages to its foreign crew.
“We calculated wages withheld from the crew amounting to more than $115,000 Australian dollars with another $72,000 in leave pay and home allotments still unaccounted for,” ITF National Co-ordinator Dean Summers said.
“If there was an international award for dodgy dealings with FOC’s Alcoa would win hands down.”
These controversial ships use exploited workers who are paid as little as $2 an hour.
“The Australian coast should be for safe, well trained Australian crews protected under Australian conditions,” Mr Summers said.
Excellent video on the MV Portland Community