ABC: Alexander Spirit: Maritime Union Appeals Against Fair Work Decision Ordering Ship's Crew Return to Work

An appeal lodged by the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) against a Fair Work Commission decision involving an oil tanker in Tasmania will be heard on Friday.

The commission has ruled that the industrial action by the crew of the Alexander Spirit in Devonport is illegal.


The 36 crew members have been refusing to sail to Singapore because they are going to be replaced by a foreign crew on a new international route.

The commission ruled on Tuesday that the five-day protest by the crew was not protected industrial action.

The MUA lodged an appeal to the full bench of the commission requesting an urgent hearing.
Teekay Shipping, the ship's owner, said that if the original decision is upheld it expected the crew to comply with the order.

In a statement, the company said it regretted that the redeployment of the ship into international routes was resulting in 36 redundancies but all crew would receive their entitlements.

The MUA's Paul Garrett said the crew was not breaching the commission's ruling.

"There hasn't been any order to sail, the crew is standing by, they're working as needed," he said.

Mr Garrett said the workers were still were not satisfied with assurances about their entitlements.

"The workers are still waiting for answers on their long-term employment prospects and they haven't got them, and they need to know what's happening," he said.
Federal Employment Minister Eric Abetz said the ship's crew should abide by the commission's ruling and return to work while the appeal is determined.

"If we are to have an orderly society we have to accept the decision of the Fair Work Commission when we win, just as much as when we lose," the Minister said.

"There are rights and responsibilities and duties on both sides of this dispute and it is up to both parties to abide by the rule of law.

"Right, wrong or indifferent, the Maritime Union of Australia has had a ruling made against it and until such time as that decision is overturned, if it is at all, it is the MUA's duty to abide by the decision."

The Federal Government wants to repeal cabotage laws which require Australian crews to be used on domestic routes.

Senator Abetz said to suggest that the workers were being made redundant in favour of overseas workers was "mischievous" and "disingenuous".

He rejected Opposition suggestions that the Government should have intervened.

"What has happened is the Caltex refinery is no longer refining in Australia and therefore there will be a direct import to Tasmania from overseas, and therefore it stands to reason that this will be conducted by international shipping rather than coastal shipping," Senator Abetz said.

"The suggestion that somehow what is occurring today in Devonport might be a link to the future legislation just shows the depth to which the Labor Party and the MUA will sink in tyring to justify the fact that they have lost a case in the Fair Work Commission.

"This is all the result of Labor legislation, Labor's Fair Work Commission and to try to say that this is somehow the Coalition's fault is ludicrous in the extreme."

Supporters are continuing a protest vigil at the Devonport wharf.

Original story published here.