ITF President Slams Australian Royal Commission

The International Transport Workers Federation (ITF) today slammed the anti-union intentions of an Australian royal commission into trade unions.

ITF affiliate the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) appeared on Monday at the Conservative government’s royal commission into trade union governance and corruption. Paddy Crumlin, MUA national secretary and president of the ITF, confirmed that while the MUA was prepared to participate in hearings, it stridently disagreed with the politics driving the inquiry.

Mr Crumlin said the royal commission is draining AUD53 million from the public purse and that taxpayers’ money could be better spent elsewhere.

"Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott is only interested in pursuing partisan politics through secondary processes,” he said.

Crumlin pointed out that there are employers out there who still believe it is in their interest, and the national interest, to train local workers. The royal commission was told about arrangements where employers can contribute to legitimate training funds, such as Maritime Employees Training Ltd (METL) in Australia.

"I commend the work of companies such as Dredging International and Van Oord who take pride in training local workers in Australia, as they do elsewhere with ITF affiliates internationally,” he said.

He praised METL and its work as “a bona fide training initiative involving Australian employers and employee organisations to meet the maritime training requirement to deliver a long term sustainable plan for the development of Australian national resources and other national maritime labour supply requirements, consistent with ITF best practice.”

He continued: “It is also consistent with international labour policy to resist social dumping and labour exploitation predicated on identifying tax avoidance and anti-labour initiatives that bypass genuine collective bargaining, freedom of association and fundamental International Labour Organization (ILO) and other international conventions.”

Crumlin slammed the political intentions behind the commission: “It is a fundamental attack on sovereign labour rights and social dialogue between the social partners and the ITF policy identifying the labour abuses inherent in the use of FOCs (flags of convenience) and the often abusive practices associated with them. The ITF is extremely alarmed by the politically motivated use of a royal commission by the Australian government to try to dilute or eliminate the legitimate rights of Australians to work in a their domestic maritime industry. This illustrates the importance of the ITF’s FOC campaign to ensure there is a genuine link between a domestic national industry and a legitimate national workforce. We will commit whatever resources we have available to ensure a legitimate and sustainable labour relationship between the Australian social partners. Shortcuts on that outcome will not be tolerated by the ITF.”

He concluded: "The Abbott Government is being actively supported by the Australian Mines and Metals Association (AMMA) which not only wants to open the back door to sell out Australian jobs but also water down training requirements. The MUA is fully audited by independent external auditors and operates with full transparency. It’s clear that the Abbott government and its mates at AMMA would prefer to open the back door to cheap foreign labour – whether it’s in coastal shipping or the offshore oil and gas sector – rather than invest in Australia’s youth and indigenous workers."