MUA members have protested out the front of the headquarters of mining giant Rio Tinto over the company's continuing refusal to employ Australian seafarers for the vast majority of its interstate and intra-state shipping needs.
Rio Tinto continues to mine and refine Bauxite in Queensland, however they are mostly employing foreign seafarers paid $4 an hour to transport bauxite from Weipa to Gladstone and alumina to Newcastle from Gladstone.
The MUA believes that Aussie seafarers should be employed in these jobs under decent pay and conditions.
MUA Queensland Branch Secretary Bob Carnegie read out a letter to Rio Tinto chief executive Peter Manion outlining the ways in which Rio Tinto is derelict in its duties.
"This demonstration held today by Maritime Union of Australia Queensland Branch members and their supporters, call upon Rio Tinto to engage immediately with the Maritime Union of Australia Queensland branch and the Maritime Union of Australia National office to implement the standard of the 2010 MOU between Rio Tinto and our union, the letter says. "Australian merchant seafarers demand and expect to have the right to work in their own country, respected and acknowledged by employment on the vessels Rio Tinto owns and operates on the Australian coast. "Our resolve is strong and if necessary we will engage Rio Tinto in a long tortuous public debate about how the second largest mining house in the world justifies employing foreign nationals at a pittance whilst skilled Australian merchant seafarers are forced onto the dole, selling their homes and feeling left out of this life (of which we only have one) whilst Rio Tinto pulls in $8 billion dollars in profits per year. "The ball is now in Rio Tinto's court." Local media reported that Carnegie made a point of emphasising to the crowd that the MUA protest is not in any way against "people from other nations".
"One of the things that we're most proud of in the MUA is that we're an internationalist based organisation and an injury to one worker anywhere in the world is an injury to all workers everywhere in the world,² Carnegie said.
Solidarity messages were presented by Michael Clifford from the Queensland Council of Unions and representatives of the Electrical Trades Union. Other unions present included the Queensland Teachers Union, the Rail Tram and Bus Employees Union, the Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union and the new Retail and Fast Food Workers Union.