The shipping company at the centre of the foreign sackings dispute now threatening cement supplies to Victorian industries has blamed Federal Government policy for the impasse.

CSL Australia chief executive Chris Sorensen yesterday told ABC Radio:

‘The matter has come about by changes in Government policy. We don’t argue with changes in Government policy, we just play by the rules.’ (Source: 774 ABC Radio Drive Program with Virginia Trioli, May 8, 2002)

The embattled crew of the company’s cement bulk carrier CSL Yarra remain on board the stranded vessel at Port Pirie in South Australia in protest at the company’s moves to sack them and replace them with cheap foreign labour.

Hundreds of people are expected to protest against the sackings at a rally today in Melbourne, where another CSL cement carrier, CSL Pacific, has docked using a low-wage Ukrainian crew which replaced Australian workers.

ACTU President Sharan Burrow called on Deputy Prime Minister and Transport Minister John Anderson to intervene to save the Australian workers? jobs and to review the Government’s policy of issuing permits to low wage foreign ships.

‘The shipping company itself has placed the ball squarely in Minister Anderson?s court. Even CSL blames the Federal Government’s ship permit policy for destroying Australian jobs by allowing sub-standard foreign ships to work the Australian coast with low-wage foreign crews,’ Ms Burrow said.

‘Other countries like Britain and the US act to limit the use of flag-of convenience vessels, but the Howard Government has issued more and more permits for these low-wage foreign ships to replace Australian ships on domestic routes, where they are allowed to avoid Australian taxes, wages, customs and immigration laws.’

Unions will raise concerns about the continued supply of cement for Victorian industries at an urgent hearing on the case in the Australian Industrial Relations Commission in Melbourne at midday today.