The ACTU is backing maritime workers in their fight to save the Australian shipping industry from Federal Government policies that are encouraging the export of Australian jobs.

The ACTU is supporting an application by three maritime unions in the Industrial Relations Commission today which aims to stop foreign companies from sacking Australian workers and replacing them with cheap foreign labour while working in Australian waters.

ACTU President Sharan Burrow said the future of the Australian shipping industry and hundreds of Australian jobs were being threatened by the Howard Government’s policy of issuing more and more permits to foreign vessels to work Australian routes with low-wage foreign crews.

“By issuing more and more permits to these vessels, Transport Minister John Anderson is knowingly authorising the export of Australian jobs. John Anderson’s foreign fleet is killing the Australian shipping industry,” Ms Burrow said.

“Many of these foreign vessels are rust-buckets and threaten our marine environment. They destroy Australian jobs and don’t pay Australian taxes. Ships doing the right thing and operating with Australian crews under the Australian flag simply can’t compete with John Anderson’s ships-of-shame.”

Today’s hearing in the AIRC concerns the sacking of Australian workers on the CSL Pacific and their replacement in 2000 by a Ukrainian crew on low wages. The ship’s Canadian-based owners, CSL, also removed its Australian flag and registered the vessel in the Bahamas, even though it is not trading internationally.

Unions have won a court injunction against CSL preventing it from proceeding with a similar plan to replace Australian workers on the ship CSL Yarra. The Federal Government is intervening on the side of the foreign company in today’s case.

Foreign vessels can only work Australian shipping routes if the Transport Minister issues a permit. The number of permits issued to foreign ships has increased by 350% since 1996 when Mr Anderson became Transport Minister. The use of foreign ships in Australia has grown by 293% since 1994. Only about 45 major Australian flagged and crewed commercial vessels remain in Australian waters.