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Issue #1694      July 22, 2015

MUA and community rally to defend seafarers

Unionists and community supporters rallied outside the old Caltex Refinery at Kurnell in Sydney and the Caltex Lytton Refinery in Brisbane on Monday July 20 to protest Caltex’s atrocious treatment of the crew of the 44,000-tonne tanker Alexander Spirit.

Caltex, 50 percent owned by global oil major Chevron, intends to replace the current crew of 36 seafarers, employed under hard fought for Australian award conditions, with a crew Caltex is likely to source internationally at poverty wages of less than $2 an hour.

It intends to do this when the Bahamas-flagged tanker completes its upcoming voyage to Singapore.

Caltex chartered the Alexander Spirit for 10 years in 2009, to service the Australian market from its Australian refineries, but with Caltex and other oil companies gradually closing down their refining capacity in Australia, Caltex wants to redeploy the Alexander Spirit to an international supply chain.

According to Caltex this now means the Alexander Spirit is “competing against every other ship importing fuel into Australia,” so the company’s operational arrangements, “including crewing”, must be “aligned with industry so it is not at a competitive disadvantage.”

Speaking at the rally, MUA Sydney Branch secretary Paul McAleer said Caltex’s complete disregard for the crew was “sickening”.

“There is absolutely no valid reason for offshoring these jobs” Mr McAleer said, “Caltex Australia is a highly profitable oil company as was shown in its recent announcement of a $375 million half-year profit. This kind of bottom-line chasing, corporate malignance is unpalatable to the union and I believe it’s unpalatable to most in the community who believe in a fair go”.

Mr McAleer said the MUA would continue to fight and would take it straight to Caltex.

“Caltex owes us because we allow them to profit off our backs, in return they should be providing good, long-term jobs to Australia’s youth,” he told the rally.

In Brisbane, where police closed down one MUA-community picket the previous week for blocking truck movements in and out of Caltex’s Lytton refinery, MUA Queensland Branch secretary Bob Carnegie told the Monday rally that Caltex’s malevolence and exploitation would not be tolerated by the rank-and-file of the union.

“We’re taking the message to Caltex that we will not abide one of the most profitable companies in the country treating its workers with such contempt,” Mr Carnegie said.

“It’s about time multinationals listened to the community off which they so brazenly profiteer. Enough is enough and the MUA will lead the charge in fighting this kind of predatory behaviour.”

The Alexander Spirit is still currently docked in Devonport, Tasmania, where its crew, supported by a 24-hours a day community picket, have refused to sail since Caltex made its announcement on July 3 that this was to be the crew’s last voyage.

Next article – Greek workers need and deserve our solidarity – CPA Secretariat statement

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