Making Portland a class struggle

Here I post reports of the MUA Portland struggle building a class struggle against the Turnbull and corporate attack on Australian jobs.
See at end update on same happens to seamen sacked on the CSL Melbourne.Protest against Rio Tinto sackings

Video of militant speeches at the Melbourne Portland rally 27/1/2016 please distribute Photos of Melbourne rally
Ged Kearney ACTU

Portland 5 Melbourne rally

Portland 5 Melbourne rally

Ian Bray MUA

Ian Bray MUA


I travelled to Portland on 25th January to support the Maritime Union of Australia, with militant speeches from MUA National Secretary Paddy Crumlin, CFMEU National Secretary Michael O’Connor and VTHC Secretary Luke Hilakari. Inspiring speakers addressed a large crowd of supporters following a march through the streets of Portland. The rally was led by the sacked workers from the MV Portland, following the disgraceful actions of Alcoa and the Turnbull Government.

See video here

Follow the dispute on Radio 3CR
Paddy Crumlin:

Paddy Crumlin on MUA website

FUTURE OF VITAL MARITIME INDUSTRY LEFT AT SEA By Paddy Crumlin National Secretary of the MUA
Wednesday, 27 January 2016
As a gang of more than 30 security guards boarded a vessel in the middle of the night, the crew on board were sure they were under terrorist attack. Instead they were hauled off to be sacked

WHEN the Maritime Union of Australia joined other key stakeholders from the maritime sector in Melbourne for a forum on the future of coastal shipping there was one notable absentee – the Federal Government.

Three Senate crossbenchers, Labor and the Greens again showed their support for the future of Australian shipping at last week’s forum. And all urged the need for unions, business and the Government to work together as the industry continues to face difficulties in the current environment.

The Abbott/Turnbull Government’s deregulation Bill failed to pass the Senate in November and while a further three crossbench Senators who opposed the Bill couldn’t make the forum, there’s no reason to suspect their position has shifted either.

For its part, the MUA focused on the importance of certainty for investment in ships and maritime infrastructure, for employment security and maintaining the maritime skills base.

The political objective is to reintroduce a new Bill that commands wide political and industry support, hence the forum. It will also require Government support in order to pass.

One of the main topics of discussion at the forum, unsurprisingly, was the treatment handed out to those onboard the MV Portland.

At 1am on Wednesday last week, crew members aboard the Alcoa ship, the MV Portland, were taken from their bunks by up to 30 security guards and marched off the vessel.

They had been sacked and replaced by overseas workers on as little as $2 an hour, paying no tax and working for international companies operating out of tax havens.

I know the Portland well – I was a seafarer in my twenties on its maiden voyage from Korea to Australia.
MUA Portland
The ship was the first training vessel for the new ‘integrated rating qualification’ which meant non-officers and engineers on the ship were multi-skilled and provided part of the basis for the revitalisation of Australian shipping by dramatically cutting the number and cost of an Australian ship’s crew.

The ship was built by Alcoa. To this day, I hold “IR ticket 001”. I can vividly imagine the fear and surprise the crew would have felt when men dressed in black invaded their small rooms and threw them out. They were handed a letter by the ship’s captain but had no time to read it, nor assess whether it was given under duress. The crew at one stage thought they could be under terrorist attack.

The move is of questionable legality, including extreme bullying and harassment and that will be tested in coming months. This is an Australian workplace by any definition.

The ship never leaves Australian territory.

There are plenty of questions for the Government here. How did the foreign crew gain permission to enter the country and sail the vessel once the Australian crew was unloaded?

Where were the new crew from? What security and criminal checks do they have? What visa are they on?

Perhaps even more seminal, has the Federal Government really changed since the infamous waterfront dispute in 1998 when security guards were sent into the Patrick’s docks in the dead of night to forcibly remove an Australian workforce?

Turnbull treason
As you would expect in a dispute which went for two months, the MV Portland dispute was subject to Fair Work Commission hearings and Federal Court proceedings. The Federal Court never found against the union.

Minister for Employment Michaelia Cash said during the dispute that it’s not up to industrial parties to pick and choose which decisions of the Fair Work Commission they will abide by. If not, the entire integrity of the system is put at risk.

Okay then, let’s apply that logic to the Senate.

In October, the Government issued a temporary license to Alcoa allowing them to engage a foreign crew on a domestic shipping route between Western Australia and Portland for 12 months.

Yet Australia has cabotage laws which state that ships trading through domestic ports are to be Australian flagged and crewed and this position was retained in November.

Apparently, Labor, Greens and the crossbench are not prepared to send Aussie jobs offshore and open up a domestic transport mode to the security risk of unchecked foreign crews.

Sensible Senators know that we shouldn’t be promoting Flag-of-Convenience shipping, which is essentially a tax avoidance scam by registering your vessel in Liberia or Mongolia and then paying your workers as little as possible – if you pay them at all.

Besides, there is an ongoing Senate inquiry into Flag-of-Convenience shipping which is yet to report.

So by Minister Cash’s own logic, the Government should cancel the licence, right? Apparently not.

Before the forum began, Senators voiced their disapproval of the way the Turnbull Government has handled the sacking of the crew of the MV Portland.

Independent senator Jacquie Lambie slammed as “disgusting” the government’s backing of Alcoa’s decision telling The Australian newspaper it defied the wishes of the Senate.

Independent Senator John Madigan said that granting the licenses was a “back-door way” of getting through the coastal shipping legislation after the Senate defeat.

At the forum he said the Government needs to offer a level playing field and the future of coastal shipping should not be a race to the bottom.

Australian Motoring Enthusiast Party Senator Ricky Muir said he would like to see outcomes driven by industry.

He said we are an island nation and we need a shipping industry and once we lose a skill set it takes a long time for it to build back up.

All of this goes to the heart of whether Australian workers have fundamental entitlements to continue to work in their own country.

Multiple decisions of the Government have left many Australian seafarers in the precarious situation where they have no right at all to work in their own industry and employers can bring in any foreign labour they wish, at any rate of pay.

Malcolm Turnbull said when he was appointed as Prime Minister that he would have a different approach to Tony Abbott in dealing with the crossbench, and indeed with the community. It seems not all of his ministers got that memo.

In the meantime, my old workplace, the MV Portland, has sailed into the night, leaving its crew jobless and serious questions unanswered in its wake.


Stand Up for Australian Jobs The Portland Community Assembly starts outside Parliament House Canberra tueday 2nd February 2016 8am until11 11th February.

Portland Canberra

More MUA videos

Portland cook speaks out

‘Guerrilla raid’: Security guards force Australian crew off Alcoa ship MV Portland January 13, 2016 by Tony Wright

Michael O'Connor CFMEU Portland

Michael O’Connor CFMEU Portland

After waging a two month long occupation of the MV Portland, fighting to save their jobs, and all local jobs, five crewmembers aboard Alcoa ship the MV Portland were woken at 1am this morning by up to 30 security guards, handed their passports and forcibly removed from the vessel.
“This is the worst example of guerrilla tactics to get rid of Australian workers since Patricks,” MUA National Secretary Paddy Crumlin said.
All credit to Shop Steward Dale Eaton, the MV Portland crew, the MUA officials and rank and file who held the line for sixty days through a courageous and inspirational struggle. Keep your heads up. MUA – Here to Stay Davie Thomason former Seaman and builders’ labourer.

Portland seafarers refuse to sail

Malcolm Turnbull’s ‘temporary licence’ has allowed 40 regional workers to be permanently replaced by a foreign crew earning as little as $2 an hour.

At 1am this morning, the MV Portland picket line was raided by Alcoa’s security guards.

We stand proudly with the Maritime Union Of Australia as they fight for one simple premise: Local jobs for local people.

Workers organisejpg

Earlier Friday, December 4, 2015

The 38 crew of the Victorian ship MV Portland docked in Portland, in south-west Victoria, have refused to sail the vessel to Singapore on a one-way journey.

The Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) is demanding the Federal Government and aluminium producer Alcoa reverse a decision to sack the workers and allow a foreign-crewed ship take over its route between Western Australia and Victoria.

The MUA’s Ian Bray said: “This ship carries product that is mined by Alcoa domestically, it is refined by Alcoa domestically, it is transported by Alcoa domestically and then it is smelted in Victoria by Alcoa domestically. There is no international component to this operation.”

Crew forced off Alcoa ship MV PortlandSaturday, January 16, 2016

By Chris Peterson
Alcoa has been allowed to sail a foreign vessel with a foreign crew after the Malcolm Turnbull government granted the company a temporary licence on the exclusively domestic route, which moves cargo between Western Australia and the smelter in Portland.

The MV Portland has plied that route for 27 years. Temporary licences are intended for foreign trading ships that call into more than one Australian port for a temporary period.

“Australia currently has cabotage laws which state that ships trading through domestic ports are to be Australian flagged and crewed,” Crumlin said.

“The Senate has blocked the Turnbull government’s deregulation agenda with the government’s own figures saying this would result in more than 1000 direct job losses.

“The Turnbull government should never have issued this temporary licence to Alcoa and they should cancel it immediately.

“Australians have a right to work jobs in their own country and to be treated with respect by an employer profiting off the minerals that belong to the Australian people.”

ACTU assistant secretary Scott Connolly described the early morning raid as “an attack on Australian workers and their families that has no place in a modern Australian workplace.

“People being forcibly removed from their place of work in an orchestrated midnight action should send shivers down the spine of all Australian workers,” he said.

Alcoa has admitted the replacement of the MV Portland and its Australian crew will save the company $6 million a year.

In a statement issued on January 13, managing director of Alcoa Australia Michael Parker said Alcoa took “decisive action today to end protracted illegal industrial action”.

“The MUA has held our ship hostage for two months; disrupting the lives of other crew members, disrupting operations at the Port of Portland, and threatening the Portland community with the loss of cruise ship visits.”

In fact, the MV Portland crew moved their ship last week and anchored in the bay, allowing a cruise ship to berth.

“This was very meticulously planned,” Crumlin said. “You don’t just get a foreign crew in five minutes — Alcoa would have had to have been planning this over weeks, while saying they were willing to talk to work out a solution.

“The Australian Maritime Safety Authority would have had to be complicit, too, to give clearance to this replacement crew before they sailed.”

“They’ve sacked an Australian crew just before Christmas and then used a cynical tactic of thuggery like this to get rid of them.”

Touch One Touch All
Earlier on the Maritime industry

Ged Kearney

Update: New dispute Sacked seamen CSL Melbourne

The Turnbull Government’s ideological attack on workers has taken a new twist today with more than a dozen police ordered onto the CSL Melbourne in Newcastle to remove five crew members protesting their sacking by Pacific Aluminium. – See more at:


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