Six weeks after booting its Australian crew, the Alexander Spirit has returned to our coastline carrying fuel, this time crewed by foreign labour.
The Alexander Spirit is currently in Townsville, before arriving in Cairns on Thursday, then on to Groote Eylandt.
The Maritime Union of Australia has labelled it a huge slap in the face to the 36 sacked Australian crew members – almost all of whom remain jobless.
The 36 crew members of the Alexander Spirit were sacked by Caltex Australia Pty Ltd and Teekay Shipping in July despite having a signed contract until 2019.
In a letter sent by Caltex on July 2, which cited changed trading arrangements as the reason for dismissal, the company said it would “deploy the Alexander Spirit on international routes … with an international crew.”
MUA Assistant National Secretary Warren Smith said dumped Aussie workers simply did not expect the ship to return to Australian shores just six weeks later, visiting many of the same ports as the vessel did previously.
“The crew of the Alexander Spirit are still picking up the pieces from their surprise sacking, given they had a signed contract to work until 2019,” Mr Smith said.
“Almost all of them are still without work and they have absolutely no hope of finding a job as seafarers if the Abbott Government’s deregulation of coastal shipping goes ahead.”
Caltex argued its decision to dump its Australian workforce was down to cost pressures during the same week the company announced a half-year profit of $375 million.
“This is a classic example of corporate greed rather than looking after their loyal Aussie workers,” Mr Smith said.
“The Abbott Government continues to say and do nothing to support Aussie jobs at sea. We saw it this week at the Senate inquiry into coastal shipping, we saw it with the shameful treatment of Bill Milby and we saw it with Eric Abtez virtually applauding when the Alexander Spirit sacked its workforce.
“In this era of high unemployment and a lack of confidence in the economy generally, the Abbott Government should be standing up for every Australian job and they won’t do it because they don’t care.”
A report by the Australia Institute into the Government’s coastal shipping legislation, which is currently before the Parliament, estimates that only 88 Australian seafarer jobs will remain under the Department’s preferred option for policy change.
This represents a loss of 1,089 Australian seafarer jobs, or 93 per cent of the current workforce.
It will result in the loss of these skills from the country altogether in the longer term.