Federal Member for Newcastle Sharon Claydon has joined in solidarity with the recently sacked workers from Newcastle and surrounds at rally in Canberra to save Australia’s shipping industry. The seafarers are among 80 who lost their jobs when Bluescope and BHP dumped the last two Australian-crewed coastal bulk iron ore carriers last month.
“The treatment of these hard-working seafarers has been utterly shameful – they were on the high seas thousands of miles away from home without any support or union representation when they found out they’d lost their jobs,” Ms Claydon said.
“Many of these seafarers have families and mortgages. Now they’ve been kicked in the guts, and will almost certainly be replaced by foreign workers on as little as $2 an hour. This is corporate greed at its most corrosive.”
Tighes-Hill based seafarer David Grant was in the middle of the China Sea on the MV Mariloula when the email came through to the ship saying BHP had cancelled the ship’s contract and the crew had lost their jobs.
“It came out of the blue. And it didn’t help that we were in the middle of the ocean with terrible internet so it was really hard to get any information or contact our families,” Mr Grant said.
“We took a two-year wage freeze because they said they couldn’t afford to pay us. Now, when they’re recording bumper profits, they turn around and sack Australian workers.”
Mr Grant, who had worked on the MV Mariloula for three years, said he’d love to stay working on the water.
“I’ve been on the sea for seven years and that’s what I want to continue doing. But if we keep going this way, we’re not going to have an Australian shipping industry - full stop,” Mr Grant said.
“I’d like to see a cabotage model that prioritises Australian workers with Australian conditions on Australia’s coast. You can’t bring a foreign worker to run goods by road. Why are they allowed to do it on the Blue Highway?”
Ms Claydon said the Morrison Government is totally complicit in these job losses.
“Since the Liberals came to power they have relentlessly attacked the Australian shipping industry and tried to install legislation that would encourage companies to sack their Australian crew and hire foreign workers on as little as $2 an hour,” Ms Claydon said.
“The Morrison Government needs to stop granting temporary licences for routes like the ones travelled by the MV Mariloula and MV Lowlands Brilliance that are clearly permanent. This is a blatant abuse of the intent of the legislation.”
Ms Claydon said the revitalisation of Australia’s shipping industry would be a core priority for Labor if it wins Government.
“Aussie seafarers are among the best in the world but the Liberal Government has worked tirelessly to do everything they can to undermine these jobs.
“As the largest island nation, a strong national shipping industry is critical to the environment, to our skills capability and to our national security.”
Video of the seafarers is available at htps://www.facebook.com/SharonClaydonforNewcastle/videos/324786408159369/