Australian Maritime Unions Standing Their Ground

The Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) and the Australian Maritime Officers Union (AMOU) have confirmed they will push ahead with a legal challenge to the Abbott Government’s attempt to allow an influx of foreign workers in the offshore.

The Abbott Government effectively overturned a decision by the Senate last week, which voted to disallow Government regulations which determined the type of visas under which workers could be employed in the sector.

Now the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU), the largest peak body representing workers in Australia, has endorsed the cause, voicing “concern at the actions of the Abbott Government that are designed to undermine the rights and opportunities of Australians to access employment in the Australian offshore oil and gas industry.”

“This move by the Government has put the interests of big business ahead of Australian workers yet again, says ACTU”

The main sticking point of the decision was the use of the Maritime Crew (subclass 988) Visa, which requires no labour market testing and can be used to hire foreign workers on greatly reduced pay and conditions compared to their Australian counterparts.

All maritime unions – the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA), The Australian Maritime Officers Union (AMOU) and Australian Institute of Marine and Power Engineers (AIMPE) – opposed the Government’s regulations.

They proposed a solution whereby the Government reintroduce a regulation which mentioned the other two types of visa – the 457 and 400 – without the MCV.

“But instead of listening and working co-operatively, the Government instead chose to wind back the clock by announcing on Thursday it would use a ‘legislative instrument’ which eliminated the need for a visa for those on board ships and other craft not tethered to the Australian seabed,” MUA said.

“The ACTU condemns the Abbott Government for its underhand methods of circumventing the will of the Parliament. By specifying an inappropriate visa class which contains only minimal background checking, which places no obligations of the sponsor to meet minimum Australian labour, safety and compensation standards, and which includes no labour market testing requirement, the Government’s intentions are clear for all to see,” stressed ACTU.

“These actions of the Government are a slap in the face for Australian offshore oil and gas workers, says ACTU”

ACTU added that the Government has used a “back door method to create an loophole which will enable employers to sponsor vast numbers of overseas temporary workers with no obligation on sponsors or employers to comply with Australian workplace relations laws, including Awards and enterprise agreements. Second, to ride roughshod over the wishes of the Senate by using a Determination making power in the Act to completely deny the full intent of the Act.”

“This disgraceful move by the Government to replace Australian jobs with positions available only to overseas workers with visa conditions that don’t give them the protections Australian workers are entitled to is unacceptable to the ACTU, and has put the interests of big business ahead of Australian workers yet again,” ACTU added.

Press release, July 24, 2014; Image: SBM Offshore

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