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Issue #1721      March 2, 2016

Protest against Rio’s actions

More than four hundred workers from several unions, most notably from CFMEU construction, have taken their fight straight to multi-billion dollar miner Rio Tinto for its complicity in sacking Australian seafarers and replacing them with foreign workers paid as little as $2-an-hour.

Last month in the port of Newcastle five crewmembers were marched down the gangway of the CSL Melbourne by more than 30 police. Those same police escorted the foreign replacement crew onto the ship to sail it away.

The CSL Melbourne carried alumina from Gladstone to Newcastle for Rio Tinto subsidiary, Pacific Aluminium for more than five years. However, the route between Queensland and New South Wales is still being utilised, only by non-Australian workers not subject to the same rights and conditions as their Australian counterparts.

The rally on February 14 began outside of Brisbane’s Central Station and made its way through the city streets to Rio’s offices on Albert Street.

Speeches came from CFMEU assistant state secretary Jade Ingham, Queensland Council of Unions secretary Ros McLennan, ACTU president Ged Kearney, ETU assistant secretary Peter Ong and sacked seafarer from the MV Portland Dale Eaton.

Maritime Union of Australia Queensland deputy branch secretary Jason Miners said the federal government was complicit in Rio Tinto’s actions in granting them a licence to exploit a loophole in domestic shipping legislation.

“Rio made US$806 million in just six months,” Miners said.

“A massive chunk of that US$806 million was made here from the minerals that all Australians own and we’re being repaid by being unceremoniously sacked from our jobs. To me that’s abhorrent.

“These jobs aren’t offshored, they still exist. However, Pacific Aluminium has been given the green light by the government to have foreign ships of shame with dodgy environmental, safety and labour practices on our coastal trade.”

Following the speeches MUA assistant national secretary Ian Bray, along with A contingent, then marched into the Rio Tinto offices and handed a letter to the management demanding replacement jobs for the displaced seafarers.

Following the brief meeting in the glass foyer, surrounded by hundreds of angry workers, Bray reported the outcomes back to the crowd.

He said that Rio has agreed to meeting with the MUA and other maritime unions. “We will continue to agitate, we will continue to organise, we will continue to push the fight, not only here, but around the country and Canberra, or wherever we have to go to make sure our message and our voices are heard,” Bray said.

Next article – Book Review – The Most Good You Can Do

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