Letter from the Crew of the Tandara Spirit

The crew of the Tandara Spirit wrote this open letter shortly before sailing the ship out of Port Phillip Bay en route to Singapore:



This morning, we the crew of the Tandara Spirit, have decided to end our sit in.

Our 20-day action was forced upon us. It has put us under extreme stress. The threat of destructive legal action against us has been of deep concern. We don’t want our wives and families to be worried about losing the family home.

We are ordinary working people. We’re not trying to be political activists. We just want to do our jobs in Australian waters.

So although we are ending our sit in for now, our conviction that we are doing the right thing – both for ourselves and for the nation – is unbent.

We do not want to sail to Singapore to be sacked by Viva Energy and replaced with foreign-based crew being paid as little as $2 an hour.

We believe that there can and should be a role for hardworking Australians in shipping fuel to this country.

We do not believe our industrial system should be undermined by companies who would prefer to pay foreign crew slave wages.

We believe there is a very real threat to the nation’s fuel security if Australia is importing 91% of its petrol and diesel and yet allows foreign multinationals to control the means of import. Do we really think these unscrupulous operators can be trusted to keep Australia’s fuel flowing regardless of the circumstances?

We believe that a serious environmental disaster in Australian waters is inevitable – whether it is by storing large volumes of petrol in large tankers in Port Phillip Bay or by moving tankers around the Great Barrier Reef when run by those unfamiliar with Australian waters and conditions.

Australia is increasingly allowing an international race to the bottom on shipping. Companies that pay their crew $2 an hour invariably tend to be equally sloppy when it comes to environmental and safety standards.

So while we may be ending our sit in, we are not ending our fight.

We are confident that the Australian people are with us. And we are confident that enough of their representatives in Parliament will soon see reason.

Decent, honest, Australian jobs are worth protecting. Our nation’s fuel security is worth protecting.

And our environment is worth protecting.

We thank the many members of the community who have offered us their words of support and to those members of the media who have ensured our story is heard by millions.

This is not the end and our union’s tanker and fuel security campaign will continue to push the message that we have highlighted for the past three weeks.

The MUA crew of the Tandara Spirit.

The letter was also published on the ACTU's WorkingLife.org

Here is the Age story on the letter.