Gillard ships out WorkChoices

Published: 6 Jul 2009

Maritime Union hails an end to wages exploitation of guest workers in our coastal waters.

SHIPPING INDUSTRY NEED NOT FEAR THE NEW REGULATIONS - National Secretary of The Maritime Union of Australia Paddy Crumlin has welcomed the Rudd Government’s announcement it will extend the Fair Work Act 2009 to cover foreign vessels operating on Australian coastal waters.

"This is a long overdue reform," he said.  "It will prevent the gross exploitation of foreign crews on many international ships in our domestic trade."

The National Secretary said the move was an important part of the government's commitment to International Labour Organisation (ILO) Conventions that protect basic rights at work.

“The devil will be in the detail of the award and we are keen to see that Australia puts an end to totally unsatisfactory treatment of foreign crews – the kind recently seen on Flag of Convenience ships, where crew were underpaid or not paid at all, in Geraldton and Newcastle”, he said.  (See ITF to the Rescue)

While the Government has left no doubt about its position, Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations Julia Gillard says she will be asking the Australian Industrial Relations Commission to review the draft Seagoing Industry Award 2010, consulting with industry before determining final provisions of the award.

In her letter to the President of the IRC Justice Guidice, on July 3, the Deputy PM advised that the new regulations would take effect on January 1, 2010, extending appication of the Fair Work Act 2009 to ships granted a permit to operate on the coast. The regulations will extend coverage to foreign corporations in their capacity as empoyers of non-citizen crew on permit ships engaging in the coastal trade," she wrote. "Once the regulations are registered, I will be requesting the commission to review the draft Seagoing Industry Award 2010".  

This, the minister stressed, would be in consultation with industry.

“No other domestic industry is permitted to use foreign labour paid at the rate applying in the country of origin of the workforce and we believe nor should those industries that rely on shipping cargoes around the Australian coast," said National Secretary Paddy Crumlin. “The move by Minister Gillard is consistent with the Rudd Government's stated intention to ratify the ILO Consolidated Maritime Labour Convention of 2006”, Paddy Crumlin said. “The shipping industry need not fear the new regulations. We have asked the Government to consider structural adjustment measures so that any negative impacts can be examined on a case-by-case basis with a view to helping ease the adjustment on industry.

“The initiative means that the Government is fair dinkum about updating and revitalizing shipping," he said. "We have to move as an industry now to see that the other shipping industry reforms under consideration by the Rudd Government following the Parliamentary Inquiry into shipping in 2008 are quickly acted on. Many of those reforms, such as fiscal support measures like accelerated depreciation, will help offset the very modest cost increases that will occur as a result of changes to the Fair Work Act. “There is no evidence that any domestic industries reliant on sea transport will be adversely affected. In fact, this reform, taken as a package with other reforms we know are under consideration by Transport Minister Albanese will create far greater certainty in terms of ship availability, ship scheduling, ship quality, ship security and ship costs that will provide competitive advantage for Australian shippers."

The MUA also sees the Fair Work decision as an important step towards creating a seamless and competitive domestic freight market in Australia, in line with the COAG decision of last week.

The move has won national media coverage including 

"New law to cover foreign ships in victory for Maritime Workers Union", 


"Local laws rule the seas",


See also MUA fronts Senate inquiry to ship out WorkChoices

The announcement of the new laws to cover guest workers on our coast comes as Fair Work Australia laws replace Workchoices in all Australian workplaces, including

The new laws will deliver:

  • Genuine rights for workers to collectively bargain and be represented by their union.
  • Unfair dismissal for all workers, including about 4 million workers who had no protection under WorkChoices.
  • A robust new safety net of awards and national standards, along with a fair and transparent process for setting minimum wages.
  • An industrial umpire with teeth to safeguard workers’ rights.

See ACTU media release Time to celebrate new IR laws - stronger rights and protections for Australian workers



Authorised by P Crumlin, Maritime Union of Australia, Sydney