Canadian Cabotage Decision Underscores Need For Strong Coastal Trading Laws

The Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) has hailed the Canadian Government’s settlement with Canadian unions over breaches of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program as a victory for common sense.

More than 50 lawsuits filed by the Seafarers’ International Union of Canada (SIUC) were due to be heard by Canada’s Federal Court this week but the case has now been resolved with the unions accepting a last-minute settlement that should lead to hundreds of jobs for Canadian seafarers in their domestic trade.

The SIU Canada argued the Canadian Government was wrongly issuing work permits to the non-Canadian crew members of hundreds of foreign ships engaged in shipping in national waters.

MUA National Secretary Paddy Crumlin applauded the hard work by all of the unions involved.

Mr Crumlin noted the difficulties faced by seafarers in both nations who are being undercut by cheap, exploited foreign labour on Flag-of-Convenience vessels, the owners of which pay no tax and often flout safety laws.

“This has been a long, hard-fought campaign by the Canadian Maritime and Supply Chain Coalition and they are to be commended for staying strong and fighting for what they believe in,” Mr Crumlin said.

“Australia faces similar problems with administration of the Coastal Trading Act, which is in part modeled on its Canadian counterpart, and this result gives us great heart that the good guys will win in the end.”

Australian Government Transport Minister Darren Chester will release a discussion paper later this month and aims to introduce new legislation covering coastal shipping later this year.

“There are many similarities in the economies of the two nations – resource based economies with their geographic positioning making them reliant on shipping to underpin trade policies,” Mr Crumlin said.

“The Australian economy, like Canada’s, has benefitted substantially in terms of employment and stability and reliability of shipping due to a long period of statutory and bipartisan support for retention of a domestic shipping industry.”

Today’s decision follows news last month that the UK Government is preparing to defend its maritime industry against the rise of cheap foreign shipping that threaten to price British seafarers out of the North Sea.

In addition, United States Customs and Border Protection officials are poised to revise dozens of rulings related to the Jones Act dating back 40 years that would restore over 3,200 American jobs and close loopholes that gave preference to foreign workers and foreign shipbuilding.

“The global trend among Governments is to be more introspective and geared towards protecting local industries and jobs and today’s settlement is a victory for common sense,” Mr Crumlin said.

“Australian jobs in coastal shipping is a no brainer – whether you look at it through the prism of local jobs, national security, fuel security or protecting the environment.”