ACTU President Sharan Burrow will visit the Australian crew of the bulk carrier CSL Yarra, who are refusing to leave the ship because they fear being replaced by cheap foreign workers from the Ukraine.

The ship’s owners, CSL Australia, ordered the crew off board yesterday, sparking union legal action in the Australian Industrial Relations Commission today against the company’s plans. CSL has been trying since last December to sack the Australian workers, replace them with a low-wage Ukrainian crew, remove the Australian flag from the ship and re-register it in the Bahamas.

Ms Burrow will travel on Sunday to South Australia’s Port Pirie, where the CSL Yarra docked on Thursday, to reassure the crew that they have the support of other workers and unions around the country.

Ms Burrow condemned Deputy Prime Minister and Transport Minister John Anderson for helping CSL to destroy Australian shipping jobs and avoid paying Australian taxes and wages.

“Other countries like Britain and the US act to limit the use of flag-of convenience vessels, but the Howard Government is encouraging more and more of these ships of shame to work in Australia with low-wage foreign crews on sub-standard conditions,” Ms Burrow said.

“Minister Anderson is directly threatening the livelihoods of the CSL Yarra crew and hundreds of other Australian ship workers and their families by approving more and more permits for flag-of-convenience ships to work the Australian coast.”

Ms Burrow was writing to Immigration Minister Philip Ruddock to ask him to stop approving work visas for foreign workers used to replace Australian workers on sub-standard wages and conditions.