Thursday, November 12, 2015

Transport Union Accuses Company of Profiteering by Scrapping Freighter and Sacking Crew

No Jones Act Means Flag of Convenience Can be Utilised
Shipping News Feature
AUSTRALIA – The International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF), which represents 4.7 million transport workers worldwide, has objected strongly and described as ‘contemptible’ the scrapping of the 36,634 deadweight tonne freighter MV Portland and the dismissal of her crew of forty. The ship trades exclusively between the states of Western Australia and Victoria transporting alumina for the owners, US headquartered Alcoa, the third largest aluminium producer in the world.

According to the ITF the crew have been told they are to be dismissed yet the trade will continue, maintaining the route with a flag of convenience ship crewed with overseas workers. The union says Alcoa is trying to exploit local laws and circumvent workers’ rights, and that the company was attempting to whittle down wages to boost what it calls ‘already healthy profits’. ITF maritime coordinator Jacqueline Smith said:

“The principle of cabotage is important for a number of reasons, including: retaining and nurturing maritime skills, national security, sovereignty and the right to work in one’s own country. It’s a very important campaign for the ITF and it is very upsetting that a hugely profitable company would engage in a race-to-the bottom by utilising a flag of convenience (FOC) ship on a domestic route.

“It shows little regard for Australia’s environment, safety and workers’ rights, as FOC operators are notorious for flaunting local and international laws around taxation, workers’ welfare and environmental safety.”

Australia has nothing in place like America’s 1920 Merchant Marine (Jones) Act and ITF president and Maritime Union of Australia national secretary Paddy Crumlin pointed out that even so, Alcoa’s product had been moved around the Australian coast for more than 50 years on Australian ships with Australian crews.

“Alcoa has profited off the back of Australian workers for many decades and is now using a loophole in Australia’s Coastal Trading Act to undermine cabotage. It’s a contemptible act by the company that the loyal, hard-working seafarers are being scrapped in order to save a couple of bucks.”