MUA Takes Vitol to Fair Work Over Tanker Decision

The MUA is taking multi-billion dollar Swiss energy company Vitol To the Fair Work Commission over its decision to sack members working on board the product tanker Tandara Spirit.

The crew aboard the Tandara Spirit. Photo: Glenn Williams

At 2pm tomorrow the FWC will also hear the company’s application for Orders that the MUA no longer participate in unprotected industrial action, by allegedly refusing to refuel the vessel to prevent it from leaving Australian waters  - a move that the Union fears would result in the termination of the jobs of the entire crew in the process.

Vitol  - which trades locally as Viva Energy - is a private $300 billion oil trading company that bought Shell's downstream business in Australia for $2.9 billion three months ago.

The union was informed by Teekay last week that Vitol will “hand back the Tandara Spirit in January 2015” yet to the shock of the  36 seafarers who work on the vessel a plan of stealth was hatched by the company whereby it would leave Australia in two days and dump the Australian crew, unemployed, in Singapore.

The MUA is alleging a lack of consultation and has filed a submission in Fair Work Australia to halt the intentions of the company. There is also an MOU between the MUA and Shell, which is being ignored.

“Just three months after buying the Australian petroleum business,  Vitol is stealthily sacking the Australian crew and undermining Australian fuel security and coastal trade,” MUA Assistant National Secretary Warren Smith said.

“Vitol is trying to dump the Australian crew without telling anyone and it’s not on.

“The members are angry, the union is angry and the community is angry – we want to ensure Australian cargo is carried around the coast by Australian seafarers.

“We should be beefing up our fuel security - not opening it up to the whims of multi-national corporations where profits will come before the best interests of the Australian public.”

The MUA formally submitted its submission to the Federal Government’s Energy White Paper on Friday, which showed that Australian tankers are much safer than their international counterparts. To read the submission click here.

With the closure of Caltex's Kurnell refinery and Shell's Clyde refinery in Sydney and planned closures by BP in Brisbane, Australia now imports 91 per cent of its petrol and diesel by foreign tankers – up from 60 per cent in 2000.

There are currently 5 MUA–crewed tankers that operate domestically servicing refineries but these jobs may disappear as domestic refineries close. Two of those ships are under immediate and imminent threat of removal from the coast.

There are up to 100 international tankers that import refined products to Australia and that number will rise. Not one Australian seafarer would crew any of that massive number of ships that supply our nations fuel needs.

The move comes just one week after it was revealed in the media that terrorist group Al Qaeda has urged jihadists to attack oil tankers in two maritime hotspots that supply Australia with up to 70 per cent of its petrol, raising concern over the nation's near complete reliance on imports.

The National Roads and Motoring Association (NRMA) has said that Australia has small and declining fuel stocks – about three weeks’ worth of refined fuels.

In addition, the Abbott Government wants to unwind Labor’s 2012 changes to the Coastal Trading Act and thereby deregulate the shipping industry and open up the coast to foreign seafarers, who can apply for short-term visas which require no background checks.

These same Maritime Crew Visas are also used in the offshore oil and gas industry as a result of changes made by the Abbott Government.

Independent Senator John Madigan has launched a Parliamentary inquiry into the country's fuel security, to which the MUA is putting a submission.