Industry evidence given at yesterday’s Royal Commission hearings into the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) has recognised the union’s efforts to train Australian workers.
The evidence is detailed in witness statements from the hearings, which were released today. Many of the details were omitted in today’s media coverage of the Commission.
The statements reveal multiple industry witnesses supported the legitimate role that the Maritime Employees Training Limited (METL) played in training Australians with maritime industry skills.
METL is a Registered Training Organisation with an independent Board consisting of both union and industry representatives. As a part of Enterprise Bargaining Agreement negotiations with employers, employees agreed to contribute part of their wages to METL.
Under separate arrangements, employers also contributed to the organisation.
MUA WA Branch Secretary Christy Cain said the Royal Commission’s hearings into the MUA had backfired.
“Tony Abbott’s Royal Commission into unions is designed to weaken public support for the union movement, providing cover for the Federal Government’s attempts to reduce workplace conditions and bring in overseas workers,” he said.
“However, the only thing uncovered in yesterday’s hearing into the MUA is our union’s rock solid commitment to ensuring Australians are trained with the skills necessary to work in the offshore oil and gas industry, and the positive partnership we have established with industry to make this happen.
“The content of the witness statements are inconsistent with today’s media coverage and it is very unfortunate that the community may have been misled into thinking the MUA has done something wrong.
“However, we stand by our actions one hundred per cent and an examination of the witness statements supports our view.
“The training of Australian workers for the offshore industry is important to ensure that the industry has the skills it needs, without having to bring in foreign workers.
“The MUA will continue to fight for the right of Australians to work in their own country and we won’t be intimidated by the Abbott Government or its politically motivated Royal Commission.”
EXTRACTED COMMENTS FROM YESTERDAY’S WITNESS STATEMENTS
Yesterday’s evidence included witness statements from industry that demonstrated the importance of METL in training Australians for the offshore industry. Said one statement: “In general, there is a worldwide shortage of dredging crew with the right tickets. Historically, this has been particularly the case in Australia. Van Oord regarded the creation of METL as a win-‐win situation for us and the industry generally.”
Marinus Meijers, Managing Director Van Oord Australia Pty Ltd Said another statement: “To my knowledge, METL is the only body that provides (support for the Integrated Rating course). For that reason, I consider that METL makes an important contribution to the level of training, skills and qualifications in the industry. DIAU considers that it is important that it supports the training of workers within the maritime industry, including through the courses administered and or provided by METL that lead to an apprenticeship. The training provided or facilitated by METL increases the number of maritime workers in the general market who have skills that DIAU requires and who may be available to DIAU when it requires additional personnel.”
Joris De Meulenaere, Human Resources Manager, Dredging International Australia Pty Ltd (DIAU) Yesterday’s evidence also included industry statements that demonstrated both the independence and governance standards of METL. Said one statement: “I was satisfied with the METL as a training provider who had been designated by the MUA as being appropriate to receive the funds we had agreed to pay. This was particularly emphasised when I noticed that reputable industry members and contractors were represented at that time on the Board of the organisation. This suggested to me that there was appropriate governance and independence over METL’s activities.”
Guido Bressani, CEO SapuraKencana Australia Pty Ltd Said another statement: “As the new Managing Director of Van Oord, during the due diligence process my confidence grew that METL was not a slush fund because I was advised by other major operators that they supported METL by contributing to the fund for the purpose of training and education. Since joining the Board, I have reviewed all of the financial reports and I have not seen anything that causes me any concern with the way METL is spending its money. I have not seen any inappropriate use of the money other than in accordance with METL’s allocation of the funds for training and education.”
Marinus Meijers, Managing Director Van Oord Australia Pty Ltd Further, yesterday’s evidence included industry statements that demonstrated the operation of METL was not related to day-‐to-‐day industrial relations issues on projects. Said one statement: “I remember that around this time I had to explain to ENI that they could not withhold the second training payment, because it was not dependent on industrial relations issues on the Blacktip Project. I explained that it was a commitment to train Australian maritime workers to address the skills shortage in the industry.”
Fabio Di Giorgi, Saipem Project Manager, ENI Blacktip Project Evidence given by industry at the Royal Commission yesterday also highlighted the value of the MUA’s State Conference, which a number of companies had provided sponsorship for. Said one statement: “I understand that the intended purpose of the sponsorship was for (among other things) training youths and to allow for other matters to be discussed at the State Conference, including matters affecting Indigenous and female workers.”
Joris De Meulenaere, Human Resources Manager, Dredging International Australia Pty Ltd (DIAU) Said another statement: “These payments have been made in the light of the good relationship between the MUA and Van Oord, as an act of goodwill gesture for its members who work for Van Oord in projects.” Marinus Meijers, Managing Director Van Oord Australia Pty Ltd