The Maritime Union of Australia is demanding an investigation into Alcoa’s actions after the American-based miner forcibly replaced Australian seafarers with foreign workers.
On January 13, at 1am five crewmembers aboard the Alcoa-owned vessel – the MV Portland – were woken by up to 30 security guards and intimidated into leaving the vessel following a 60-day dispute.
The Portland had plied the trade between Western Australia and Victoria for more than 27 years.
MUA Assistant National Secretary Ian Bray said that because it occurred in a Victorian port the State Government had a responsibility to hold and inquiry into the raid.
“There are still many unanswered questions as to why this was allowed to occur,” Bray said at a rally outside of Liberal HQ on Exhibition Street, Melbourne.
“We’ve seen no evidence that the replacement crew were competent, qualified or suitably trained. We don’t know what visa they were allowed to enter Australia on?
“What we are sure of is that an operation as sophisticated as Alcoa undertook, with the hired security, must’ve been planned in advance and both the State and Federal Government would have to had some knowledge to allow the security guards and the foreign crew into the maritime security zone.”
The MV Portland, which carried alumina between Western Australia and the smelter in Portland, Victoria has sailed to South-East Asia to be scrapped, however the route between WA and Victoria is still in operation. Alcoa have chartered foreign vessels, with a foreign crew to ply the domestic route in contravention to the Coastal Trading Act 2012.
The Federal Government issued Alcoa with a Temporary Licence at the end of 2015 which enables the company to circumnavigate the laws.
Bray said it was to be expected that profit-driven Alcoa would try and undermine Australian wages and conditions but it was untenable that the Australian Government would be complicit.
“This whole headache could go away with the swipe of a pen. The Turnbull Government could revoke the licence immediately and the 40 jobs the MV Portland generated would be returned,” he said.
Bray was joined by Victorian Branch Secretary Joe Italia who said the loss of jobs on the Portland was just the tip of the iceberg and if not opposed those job losses would permeate into other industries.
Other speakers included Greens Senator Janet Rice, ACTU President Ged Kearney, CFMEU National Secretary Michael O’Connor and Victorian Trades Hall Council Luke Hilikari.
However, it was when MV Portland delegate Dale Eaton jumped onto the back of the ute, took the microphone joined by his other crewmembers that got the 300-strong crowd’s attention.
Dale spoke about the shoddy treatment he and the others had received courtesy of Alcoa.
He also said that although the MV Portland may have sailed, the fight was far from over and that he, the crew and every other supporter would continue to fight for their jobs and for the right of Australians to work in their own country.
Meanwhile, simultaneously in Sydney, the branch took their fight to the building of foreign Shipping Australia, the body that looks after the interests of international ship owners at the behest of local industry and workers.
Approximately 100 members and supporters occupied the building until 2pm.
For all of the pictures from the two rallies, click here.