American-based corporation ALCOA, producer of primary aluminum, has decided to replace the Australian crew of the MV Portland with foreign workers, who will be paid as little as USD 2 an hour, reports the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA).
In a statement issued earlier this week, ALCOA said that the general cargo ship would be removed from the Australian coast entirely. The bulker has been employed between Portland, Victoria, and Kwinana, Western Australia, for the past 25 years.
“We cannot understand why the government is allowing multinational companies like Alcoa to remove Australian seafarers off the blue highway to be replaced by cheaper, unskilled foreign labour,” said Delegate of the MV Portland Crew, Dale Eaton in a statement.
According to MUA Assistant National Secretary Ian Bray, the authorities had been informed that the company was looking to scrap the ship, but this move was not expected.
“We were told the ship would be finishing up in January, despite it not being scheduled for its major dry dock for another 12 months,” Bray added.
The decision would affect 40 seafarers employed on the ship.
The MUA writes that its officials have arranged several high-level union meetings, the first to be held on November 11, to explore a series of political angles to challenge this move.
The move follows the company’s announcement from 2013 on the removal of its Australian ship the MV Lindesay Clarke, as well as the vessel’s crew, from service.
The MUA reports that many Australian seafarer jobs could be in danger due to ALCOA’s support for the Warren Truss Shipping Legislation Amendment Bill which, if passed through the Senate, would impact the entire Australian shipping industry and put up to 10,000 maritime workers on the unemployment list.