Yesterday, Federal Shadow Employment Minister Brendan O’Connor joined the Maritime Union of Australia and Unions NT in highlighting the plight of good, skilled, long-term jobs in the Territory.
O’Connor’s visit came in the wake of actions undertaken by two multi-national mining companies – Pacific Aluminium and Alcoa – in sacking of their Australian seafarers from their domestic shipping routes and replacing them with developing world crews paid as little as $2-an-hour.
In the case of Alcoa’s MV Portland, five crewmembers were tossed from their bunks at 1am by up to 30 private security guards after a 60-day dispute.
Meanwhile, in Newcastle last week five seafarers were marched down the gangway by more than 20 police officers at the behest of Pacific Aluminium. The same 20 police officers escorted the foreign replacement crew onto the vessel. Both routes trade exclusively between Australian ports.
Maritime Union of Australia Northern Territory Branch Secretary Thomas Mayor said the Federal Government was complicit in the two company’s actions in granting them a licence to exploit a loophole in domestic shipping legislation.
“We expect this kind of behavior by greedy multi-million dollar mining companies but the Government shouldn’t be siding with them,” Mr Mayor said.
“The Turnbull Government and the local member Natasha Griggs should condemn the actions, revoke the licence that allowed the company to do this and stand up for Australian workers.”
ALP Candidate for Solomon Luke Gosling also spoke to the 60-strong crowd on Stokes Hill wharf who also listened to the stories of two unemployed seafarers, Darwin local Rowan Hayward and one of the sacked seafarers from the MV Portland Liam Conaghan.
Conaghan spoke not just about the fateful night when his comrades were unceremoniously woken by hired goons and marched down the gangway, but also about the bleak future for jobs such as seafaring in Australia.
"I grew up in what was called the lucky country, and I feel that has been taken away from me and my children," he said.