Unionists escorted off ship following stand-off with Alcoa

A two-month-long stand-off on an Alcoa ship at Portland has ended, with security guards entering the vessel at 1 am yesterday and escorting five workers off.

The MV Portland, on its way to Singapore, had been stranded since November 14 last year. The Fair Work Commission ordered the unionists to stop on November 17 and 21, and the Federal Court ordered that four of the crew members restrain from industrial action on December 8, reports The Australian Financial Review.

The Maritime Union of Australia said the workers had been forcibly removed, and there were questions to be answered regarding the legitimacy of this. The MUA says that the action was triggered by the sacking of 40 workers by Alcoa, which the union claims is exploiting foreign workers on $2 an hour and thwarting Australia’s cabotage laws.

“How did the foreign crew gain permission to enter and then sail the vessel? Where are the crew from? What security checks do they have? What visa are they on?” said the MUA’s national secretary Paddy Crumlin in a statement.

“Has Australia learnt nothing since the infamous waterfront dispute in 1998? When did it suddenly become ok to again send in security guards in the dead of night to forcibly remove a workforce? This sort of thing shouldn’t happen to anyone in their workplace."

The Turnbull government has granted a temporary license to Alcoa to use a foreign vessel and foreign crew on the WA to Portland route.

Alcoa Australia’s managing director Michael Parker said company had been very tolerant of the action.

“…the MUA has held our ship hostage for two months; disrupting the lives of other crew members, disrupting operations at the Port of Portland, and threatening the Portland community with the loss of cruise ship visits,” the ABC reports him as saying.

"This has gone on long enough."

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