International Transport Workers’ Federation Australian coordinator Dean Summers has slammed Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss for using a day of commemoration and celebration to push his ideological agenda.
Summers said the Deputy PM should get his staff to do their research before Mr Truss offers an ill-informed opinion on something as complex as the international maritime industry.
“The reason the ‘Flag of Convenience’ (FOC) system can thrive and bad operators exploit those seafarers is because of a deregulated industry,” Summers said.
“Cutting red tape in the international shipping industry means low wages, unsafe ships and complete immunity for faceless ship-owners.
“Doing this in Australia means the end of domestic shipping that will inevitably be replaced by the cheapest nastiest operators.”
Currently the FOC campaign in Australia has five full time inspectors involved in the investigation of hundreds of cases of wage fraud, violation of workers' rights as well as full Coronial Inquest into three suspicious deaths aboard FOC vessel, Sage Sagittarius.
“Every day we work as part of a worldwide team to protect the 1.5 million seafarers from the ravages of deregulation, sold to the public under the premise of ‘cutting red tape’, Summers said.
“The Minister’s attack on the industry is a thinly veiled attack on the Australian maritime unions.”
Last year alone the ITF FOC campaign in Australia returned $2 million of stolen wages back to seafarers from India, Philippines and Burma.
Summers said the removal of red tape has exposed these workers to blatant corruption, intimidation and exploitation.
“Truss must understand that the Maritime Labor Convention is an international minimum standard for seafarers' basic rights of food, pay and medical care. It was introduced to remedy the lack of regulation Truss so wantonly champions,” he said.