On the lawns in front of Parliament House the Jobs Embassy returned yesterday to highlight the Government’s inaction on jobs, particularly in light of the rising unemployment rate in the Hunter region.
The Jobs Embassy was originally spawned in response to seafarers being sacked off domestic ships and being replaced by unregulated, foreign labour paid as little as US$2-an-hour.
This is time it was Newcastle Branch’s turn to host the event, which has been hugely successful in keeping the union’s campaigns, at the forefront of politician’s minds.
MUA Assistant National Secretary Ian Bray said the Jobs Embassy would last as long as the Turnbull Government kept colluding with big business to allow jobs to be offshored and replaced.
“I think the PM Malcolm Turnbull and his Employment Minister Michaelia Cash thought we’d have given in by now and accepted that Australian workers could be replaced in their Australian workplace by exploited developing world workers,” Mr Bray said.
“Well, I have some news for them, we’ll be here until the seafarers that were sacked from the CSL Melbourne and the MV Portland are reinstated and the Government sits down with the union and other industry stakeholders to formulate a policy on domestic shipping that includes Australian workers.
On Tuesday the Maritime Union of Australian was joined by other workers from blue collar industries from the Hunter region, including the Australian Workers’ Union, Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union and the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union, who travelled to the Jobs Embassy via a five-hour bus drive.
Shadow Employment Minister Brendan O’Connor joined the speakers which was emceed by Hunter Unions Secretary Daniel Wallace.
O’Connor said the Government had an antipathy towards working men and women and their industries.
“This is systematic. This is an intentional systematic undermining of the maritime industry, of employment conditions and if it can happen to the maritime industry and union, it can happen to anybody in this country,” he said.
Meanwhile Wallace spoke about the Government's inaction on local procurement and local content policy.
“The silence by the Turnbull Government, on the thousands of jobs being haemorrhaged in manufacturing and mining, is atrocious,” Wallace said.
“Local procurement should be a no-brainer, but the Government - at the behest of big, usually overseas, business - is turning its back on workers, local business and the wider-community.
“Well, if Turnbull and Michaelia Cash think they can walk away from Australian workers without a fight, they’re more delusional than I thought.”
MUA Newcastle Secretary Glen Williams said the Government’s actions were most recently on show in Newcastle when the NSW Police removed the Australian crewmembers from the domestic ship the CSL Melbourne, after the Federal Transport Department granted the company a special license to flout Australian employment and shipping laws.
“Allowing Australian seafarers be replaced by $2-an-hour workers, on exclusively domestic routes, like the CSL Melbourne which traversed between Gladstone and Newcastle, is the tip of the iceberg,” Williams said.
“If a special license can be used in shipping, who is to say the Government won’t allow other industries to exploit legal loopholes to bring in an overseas workforce, not subject to Australian wages and conditions.”
Also joining the effort were Hunter ALP politicians – Jill Hall, Joel Fitzgibbon, Pat Conroy and Sharon Claydon - who showed up to support the Hunter region protesters and the Jobs Embassy more broadly.
“This Liberal Government has done nothing to support the jobs of today or prepare for the jobs of the future. The maritime, mining and manufacturing sectors have been particularly hard hit with thousands of jobs lost in the Hunter,” Claydon said.
“Manufacturing is our region’s third largest employer but this government has done nothing to support the industry. There were more than 1000 highly-skilled men and women working in the shipbuilding industry in 2013 now there’s just a handful, as the Liberal Government sends more and more jobs offshore. Likewise, this Government has abandoned Australian seafarers replacing them with foreign crews instead,” Claydon said.
“Malcolm Turnbull leads a Government that has all but abandoned science, research, innovation and industry. They abolished Labor’s $1 billion jobs plan, which would have provided regions like ours an opportunity to build world-class Innovation Precincts,” Conroy said.
“When it comes to jobs, this Government’s record is abysmal, but when it comes to Hunter jobs it is absolutely shameful. I’ll be standing shoulder to shoulder with Hunter workers today to spread the word that our community is being irreparably damaged by Malcolm Turnbull and his Government,” Conroy said.
“Many workers who have lost their jobs in the Hunter are fifty years of age or more and have spent most of their working lives in the mines. They don’t have skills readily transferable to other occupations and this government has failed to deliver any support for today or direction for these workers’ future. Malcolm Turnbull expects Australians to work until they’re 70 but can’t deliver the jobs,” Fitzgibbon said.
“People need job security for their families to pay their bills and mortgages. But the Turnbull government has no plan for jobs in the Hunter, just job losses and uncertainty. Even the public sector is feeling the pain with services such as Medicare offices forced to close down. The Turnbull government needs to work harder and stand up for local jobs, not cut them.” Hall said.
Following the Labor crowd, an international guest in the form of RMT Southampton Shipping Branch chairman Mick Stubbs took to the podium to describe the situation in the UK but not before it was introduced by the ever-humorous Newcastle Deputy Branch Secretary Dennis Outram.
When the clock struck 4.30pm, the gear was packed away in a van for another day, only to be reassembled Wednesday.
For all of the photos, click here.