Senator Cash Has Questions To Answer Over MV Portland Raid

The Maritime Union of Australia will rally today outside the office of Minister for Employment and Minister for Women Michaelia Cash following last week’s attack on Australian jobs by American-based miner Alcoa.

Five crew members aboard Alcoa’s ship the MV Portland were woken at 1am last Wednesday morning and forcibly removed by up to 30 security guards, leaving behind many of their possessions which have not yet been returned. 

Unions are continuing to ask questions about what the Turnbull Government knew about the raids and what safeguards they insisted were in place to ensure the safety of the crew.

All of the security guards were male and the MUA is concerned what would happen if there were women working on the vessel.

Women from the MUA will present the Minister for Women with a letter requesting she guarantee that a bunch of hired male security guards don’t act in this way in an Australian workplace again.

MUA WA Branch Secretary Chris Cain said the union was looking at legal avenues after the raid on the vessel, which had been working the route between Western Australia and the Victorian city of Portland for 27 years. 

“The MUA has engaged its lawyers to look at whether the company has breached its duty of care by sending in security guards to pull workers from their beds at 1am and forcibly remove them from their workplace,” Mr Cain said.

“You can’t just arrive on the scene with a foreign crew to sail a vessel – they need visas and permission to sail so it’s impossible that the Turnbull Government didn’t know.

“Did the company or the Government check whether there were any women onboard before the raid, what safeguards were put in place to ensure the safety of the crew, and will the minister guarantee this won’t happen again?”

The MV Portland is now on its way to Singapore to be sold. It is being sailed by a foreign crew, following a 60-day dispute triggered when 40 Australian workers onboard were sacked. 

Alcoa is flouting Australia’s cabotage laws - which state that ships trading through domestic ports are to be Australian flagged and crewed - by shifting to foreign vessels, many of them Flags of Convenience using exploited workers on as little as $2/hr. 

Alcoa has been able to do this after the Turnbull Government in October granted the company a temporary licence on the exclusively domestic route. 

The Australian Senate blocked the Turnbull Government’s deregulation agenda in November and the Government should cancel Alcoa’s temporary licence immediately.