Tandara Spirit Campaign Flagged in Canberra Meetings

Maritime Union of Australia Deputy National secretary Mick Doleman has headed to Canberra to talk to the nation's leaders about Australia's energy security and the Tandara Spirit.
Doleman met with Independent Senator John Madigan, who is leading an inquiry into Australia's fuel security.

Deputy National Secretary with Senator Ricky Muir from AMEP in Canberra

The MUA has made a submission to the inquiry, specifically highlighting concerns over the disgraceful treatment of MUA members onboard the Tandara Spirit and the impeccable safety record of vessels which are Australian crewed.

Doleman also met with Australian Motoring Enthusiasts Party Senator Ricky Muir, Labor's Anthony Albanese and Sue Lines, and Senator Janet Rice from the Greens.

Briefings were also conducted with staff from Australian Greens Leader Christine Milne's office and Palmer United Party Leader Clive Palmer's office.

"There are widespread concerns amongst politicians about the fact the Abbott Government seems to think the market will provide when it comes to energy security in Australia," Doleman said.

"The MUA firmly believes Australian workers should be moving all of our nation's fuel supplies - for a range of national security, fuel security and environmental reasons - and this was made perfectly clear.

"Everyone I spoke to in Canberra was shocked to learn that Vitol wants to weaken our security even further and try to remove Australian workers with an impeccable safety record in order to replace them with $2 an hour workers."

This came on the same day that MUA Assistant National Secretary Ian Bray, Victorian Branch Secretary Kevin Bracken, Victorian Branch Assistant Secretary Bob Patchett and Sydney Branch Assistant Secretary Paul Garrett went onboard the Tandara Spirit.

"I had the honour and privilege to travel by launch out to the Tandara Spirit to meet the courageous comrades who are fighting for their jobs and the future of Australian seafarers," Bray said.

"Teekay, in my view, did not genuinely attempt to consult and Vitol - the vessel's charterers - were not very forthcoming about a commitment to employ Australian seafarers.

"The attempt to justify international seafarers taking the jobs of Australian seafarers and only pay them $2 per hour was an absolute joke.

"To our members out on Tandara, we know other seafarers and wharfies are watching this dispute with keen interest and support you.”

Officials with the crew aboard the Tandara Spirit

Garrett said: "Massive day today with the MUA members onboard the Tandara Spirit in Port Phillip Bay with Comrades Kevin Bracken and Bob Patchett of the Victorian Branch, plus Ian Bray from National Office.

"The MUA supports members who are protecting  their jobs by taking Teekay to the Fair Work Commission and if required, to the Federal Court.

"The company has repeatedly failed to adequately consult their workforce and the charterer Viva/Vitol are moving to replace the ship with workers on $2 per hour on a ship that has a chequered past and is littered with deficiencies.

"Again tonight, the Tandara Spirit remains at anchor whilst the consultation question goes unanswered by the company.

"I know the crew are appreciative of all the support from the maritime community around the coast."

The sit-in by MUA members on board the Tandara Spirit has almost approached two weeks with the ship still at anchor in Melbourne’s Port Phillip Bay.

Both the off going and joining crews have remained steadfast in their determination to fight for their jobs and for the bluewater industry.

With the closure of Caltex's Kurnell refinery and Shell's Clyde refinery in Sydney and planned closures by BP in Brisbane, Australia now imports 91 per cent of its petrol and diesel by foreign tankers – up from 60 per cent in 2000.

There are currently 5 MUA–crewed tankers that operate domestically servicing refineries but these jobs may disappear as domestic refineries close. Two of those ships are under immediate and imminent threat of removal from the coast.

There are up to 100 international tankers that import refined products to Australia and that number will rise.

MUA Assistant National Secretary Warren Smith is currently in London attending the ITF Seafarers Section meeting, which will look at ways to provide solidarity to the workers on board the Tandara Spirit and investigate Vitol’s international use of sub-standard shipping.

To read the MUA's submission on the Fuel Security Inquiry, click here.