||Issue No. 264||20 May 2005|
Interview: Fortress NSW
Unions: Fashions Afield
Industrial: Pay Dirt
Politics: Infrastructure Blues
History: Big Day Out
International: Making History
Economics: The Fear Factor
Review: The Robots Revolt
Poetry: The Corporation's Power
The Locker Room
A Baloney Deal Under Fire
Husband and wife team, Leslie and Peter Wahlqvist, had 30 Aussie seafarers axed from the Destiny Queen, late last year, and replaced them with Ukranians and Chinese who arenít allowed to set foot on Australian soil.
The MUA and ITF have been trying to check their wages and conditions, since they set sail from China six months ago, but say every effort has been blocked by owners of the abalone processing operation.
"We don't know what's happening because we can't get to them," ITF spokesman, Dean Summers, said. "She refuses to let us on board.
"They dumped Australian workers when they had the vessel reflagged under a flag of convenience.
"To the best of our knowledge, the Ukranians and Chinese are held out there, within sight and smell of land, for up to 12 months. They don't have visas to come ashore and can't call family or friends.
"We wrote to the company and offered to go on board, at our own expense, to check on the conditions of the people we represent but she refuses, point blank.
"Our understanding is they have set themselves up to dodge tax, wages and human rights. Effectively, it's a slave ship."
The Destiny Queen is moored less than 20km off South Australia, in the Spencer Gulf, just far enough away to ensure Ukranian and Chinese employees do not require Australian work visas.
It doesn't need a foreign flag permit because it doesn't travel from port to port.
Chinese and east European crews are among the world's lowest paid, earning as little as $525 ($US400) a month. ITF agreements provide for monthly minimums of $US1500.
Workers Online understands the abalone is processed and sold by Destiny Abalone, a Hong Kong-based company with an Adelaide address. Leslie Wahlqvist is chief executive and a director.
But the vessel and crew, apparently, are controlled by Hong Kong-registered, Destiny Shipping, of which her husband, Peter Wahlqvist, is a director.
We attempted to ask Leslie Wahlqvist about her company's wages, conditions, registration, immigration, tax, and health and safety arrangements but she refused to answer.
"At this point in time, the company policy is that we are not making any comments," she said.
There has been no federal government move to question her modus operandi but sustained union pressure has brought attention from its South Australian counterpart.
Transport Minister Patrick Conlon confirmed the Destiny Queen appeared to have "found loopholes" and suggested cabinet would move to close them.
He said state government officials would board the vessel to check compliance with existing laws.
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