MUA Welcomes Support of AWU Workers at BlueScope Steel in Port Kembla

The Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) has welcomed the unanimous support of steelworkers at BlueScope Steel in Port Kembla who have rejected the move by the company and its former parent BHP to sack the Australian crew of two vessels carrying iron ore from Port Hedland.

The ACTU, ALP, International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF), domestic and international unions are already part of an ongoing campaign protesting the move by BHP - formerly known as The Big Australian.

 

“The MUA thanks AWU workers at Port Kembla for expressing solidarity at this difficult time and welcomes their voice to the growing chorus of condemnation against BHP and BlueScope,” MUA National Secretary Paddy Crumlin said.

 

Earlier this month, BHP and BlueScope decided without consultation that the MV Mariloula and MV Lowlands Brilliance would be dumped immediately – with Australian ships having serviced BHP and subsequently BlueScope in this country for more than 100 years.

 

The more than 500 workers at BlueScope’s Port Kembla steelworks have themselves been locked in negotiations for a new enterprise agreement for almost a year in the first bargaining since they accepted a pay freeze during the 2015 steel crisis.

 

The steelworkers are represented by the Australian Workers’ Union (AWU) and Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union (AMWU). Outside of their enterprise bargaining, the AWU unanimously passed a resolution supporting Australian seafarers onboard the two vessels.

 

“AWU members at BlueScope call for the reinstatement of Australian iron ore vessels crewed by Australian seafarers that have carried raw materials to Port Kembla for over 100 years,” the resolution said.

 

“That those Australian seafarers were informed that they were to be dumped from their workplaces without notice and on an international voyage is a disgrace by ‘The Big Australian’ BHP and BlueScope. 

 

“The AWU condemns the replacement of these Australian workers with highly exploited foreign seafarers on Australian work visas to replace them in an Australian national transport industry.

 

“Both unions again call on BHP and Bluescope to ensure Australian labour and employment standards are their national supply chain."

 

BlueScope and BHP are increasingly using foreign-crewed ships under temporary licences to deliver cargo to the Port Kembla steelworks.

 

A story in the Australian Financial Review today claims that: BHP has been out of the freight business for the best part of two decades, and the arrangement with BlueScope was an anomaly, left over from when the steel maker was spun out of BHP.

 

“It would seem the BHP ad blitz Think Big is fake news. The real story here is that BHP is the largest charterer of ships in the world with over 1,500 ships at any given point in time and freely boasts in shipping circles that they lead the market,” Crumlin said.

 

“A company that never lets the truth get in the way of self-interest is opportunistically using Australia’s political climate to sack nearly 80 local seafarers and replace them with $2 an hour exploited foreign labour on the Australian coast. They are in serious denial and need counselling “

 

MEDIA CONTACT: Tim Vollmer 0404 273 313

 

The following resolution was passed at yesterday's meeting:

"The Australian Workers Union and the Maritime Union of Australia commit to stand by each other in the struggles our unions face in dealing with some of Australia’s biggest companies such as BHP and BlueScope Steel.

AWU members at BlueScope call for the reinstatement of Australian iron ore vessels crewed by Australian seafarers that have carried raw materials to Port Kembla for over 100 years. That those Australian seafarers were informed that they were to be dumped from their workplaces without notice and on an international voyage is a disgrace by the Big Australian BHP and Bluescope.

The AWU condemns the replacement of these Australian workers with highly exploited foreign seafarers on Australian work visas to replace them in an Australian national transport industry.

Both unions again call on BHP and Bluescope to ensure Australian labour and employment standards are their national supply chain."