Australian Coastal Shipping Must Be Part Of Any Portland Alcoa Fix

The Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) insists that any financial assistance package being offered by state and federal governments to Alcoa’s Portland Smelter involves a commitment by the company to Australian coastal shipping.

The Age newspaper today reported that: “Alcoa's Portland's aluminium smelter has all but struck a generous new electricity supply deal with energy giant AGL, ensuring the troubled plant is likely to stay open”.

The newspaper said an in-principle deal was struck following a 12-hour meeting on Sunday involving Victorian Treasurer Tim Pallas, Alcoa and energy supplier AGL.

This follows the offer of about $240 million in state and federal assistance made to the company in December to help cover the costs of a power outage that caused masses of aluminium to cool and solidify, plus ensure lower cost power into the future.

MUA Assistant National Secretary Ian Bray said the MUA has met with the Victorian Government, including the Treasurer, on multiple occasions to discuss coastal shipping and the Portland smelter.

Bray welcomed the involvement of Mr Pallas, Premier Daniel Andrews and Federal Industry Minister Greg Hunt in trying to protect hundreds of jobs at the plant in Victoria's south-west but said more needs to be done.

“Today’s announcement is good news for workers at the smelter but it doesn’t go far enough – guaranteeing the jobs of Australian seafarers must be part of any ongoing solution for the Portland smelter,” Bray said.

“It is almost one year to the day since five crewmembers aboard Alcoa ship the MV Portland were woken at 1am by up to 30 security guards, handed their passports and forcibly removed from the vessel.

“The MV Portland was replaced by foreign vessels, including Flags of Convenience (FOC’s) using often-exploited workers on very low rates of pay. 

“Despite a commitment by the company to re-visit the use of an Australian vessel after 12 months, nothing has been done and governments must ensure these 40 Australian seafarers get their jobs back.

“The Turnbull Government granted the company a temporary license on an exclusively domestic route between Western Australia and the smelter in Portland. 

“The MV Portland had plied that route for 27 years. Temporary licenses are intended for predominantly foreign trading ships that call into more than one Australian port for a temporary period.

“Australians have a right to work jobs in their own country and to be treated with respect by an employer profiting off the minerals that belong to the Australian people.”

 

MEDIA CONTACT: Darrin Barnett 0428 119 703

Read The Age article here

 

Deal set to keep Alcoa's troubled Portland plant operating

  • By Josh Gordon
  • JANUARY 16 2017 - 1:46PM

Alcoa's Portland's aluminium smelter has all but struck a generous new electricity supply deal with energy giant AGL, ensuring the troubled plant is likely to stay open.

At a marathon 12-hour meeting on Sunday chaired by State Treasurer Tim Pallas, Alcoa and AGL struck what was described as an "in principle" agreement on the price and terms covering the supply of electricity to the US multinational.

Although the details are yet to be locked in, the deal, which is not yet legally binding, is seen as a breakthrough.

It follows the offer of about $240 million in state and federal assistance made to the company in December to help cover the immediate costs of a huge power outage that month which crippled the plant and to lower power costs for the company over the next four years.

In a joint statement released on Monday morning, Mr Hunt and Mr Pallas said "significant progress" had been made over the weekend "with great demonstrations of good faith from all parties working to find a solution for the future of the Portland smelter".

That followed an intervention by Premier Daniel Andrews last week, who interrupted his summer holidays to weigh into the high-stakes negotiations between the two parties amid concern for hundreds of jobs in Victoria's south-west.

Fairfax Media also revealed that Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull's office has intervened to encourage a deal.

Alcoa has refused to publicly commit to a future in Portland. That followed a massive power outage in December that caused molten aluminium in more than 200 smelting pots to cool and solidify.

The outage has left the smelter operating at about one-third capacity, costing the company about $1 million a day since.

Alcoa is also facing major financial challenges following the end of a highly concessional deal made with the Cain government about 30 years ago.