Supporters and crew of the MV Portland have vowed to continue to fight for their jobs and will hit the streets and hand out fliers today as the Pacific Jewel cruise liner arrives in Portland.
The Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) has been in dispute with miner Alcoa since early November regarding the company’s intention to sack 40 seafarers and remove a national-flagged ship, the MV Portland, from service.
The MV Portland moved from the SL Patterson wharf on Monday to enable the Pacific Jewel to berth. Alcoa and the Port Authority have agreed that the MV Portland can return to the port the day after the cruise ship departs.
The crew’s flier says: “55 days ago we were sacked and told that our ship would be replaced by a foreign crewed vessel on what is a purely Australian domestic route.
“Since that time we have seen two substandard vessels doing our work. Firstly, there was the vessel the Strategic Alliance, which has reportedly paid under the table payments in dubious dealings around the world.
“The second vessel, the Greenery Sea, which has an outstanding bill of unpaid wages to crew members.
“We don’t think it's right that Australians don’t get to work in their own country, never mind being replaced by exploited and underpaid crew.
“Australia has always had a proud seafaring industry but this is slowly being whittled away, which creates a threat to security on our coast, stress to our fragile environment and the deliverance of third world standards to the Australian economy.
“This is a fight for Australian jobs and an Australian Industry on our island nation.”
The MV Portland has carried cargo from refineries in Western Australia to a smelter in Portland, Victoria for 27 years.
Alcoa intends to continue this trade but has been granted a temporary licence from the Turnbull Government which will allow them to do so with a foreign-flagged ship with a foreign crew being paid as little as $2-an-hour.
MUA Assistant National Secretary Ian Bray said Alcoa and the Turnbull Government should act in line with the Australian Senate, which voted to retain cabotage laws in late November.
“Australia currently has cabotage laws which dictate that ships trading through domestic ports are to be Australian flagged and crewed,” Mr Bray said.
“The Turnbull Government should never have issued this temporary licence to Alcoa as it is contrary to the intent of existing legislation and they should cancel it immediately.”