Federal Workplace Relations Minister Tony Abbott this week is receiving an automatic pay rise of at least $108 a week, just days after suggesting that Australian seafarers should expect to be sacked because they cost more than cheaper foreign labour.

Mr Abbotts monthly pay cheque this week includes a $108-a-week pay rise as part of an automatic increase for Federal MPs, according to data from the Remuneration Tribunal. Mr Abbotts minimum base pay is increasing from $3,217 per week to $3,325 per week, or $172,900 per year plus allowances and expenses.

Mr Abbotts pay rise is automatic without any requirement for improvements in productivity or competitiveness.

On Monday Mr Abbott said that if Australian ship crews were not competitive with foreign crews, then you can hardly expect people not to seek different arrangements.

Mr Abbott was speaking out in support of Canadian-owned shipping company CSL after it said it would sue Australian unions and union leaders for trying to stop the company from replacing Australian seafarers with cheaper Ukrainian crews.

ACTU Secretary Greg Combet said Australians expect the Federal Government to defend Australian jobs from third-world wages and conditions and to ensure that foreign flag-of-convenience ships do not wipe out Australias dwindling domestic shipping industry.

Mr Abbott is taking the side of multinational flag-of-convenience shipping companies that are trying to force Australian workers onto lower wages and conditions or else face the sack. At the same time he is pocketing an automatic pay rise of more than $100 a week, Mr Combet said.

Mr Abbotts comments this week came as a new Cardiff University study of 4,500 ship crews internationally reported that Australian crews are the most highly skilled in the world. Australia top scored with a competency rating of 88, compared to 83 for Germany and Western Europe, 80 for second and international registers and 73 for the Panama flag-of-convenience.