|Issue No 87||10 March 2001|
Australian Shippers Promote Slavery
By Zoe Reynolds
Cheap freight rates come at the cost of human lives, according to a damning report on the world's shipping industry released today.
Peter Morris chairman of the International Commission on Shipping released Ships, Slaves and Competition, at the APEC safer shipping forum in Sydney this week. Morris spoke passionately of the tens of thousands of seafarers exploited or subjected to physical and psychological abuse worldwide.
"Life at sea is modern slavery," he said. "Their workplace is a floating sweatshop."
The Maritime Union and the International Transport Workers' Federation witness this abuse daily, fighting to get foreign seafarers their pay, medical help and repatriation.
"We come across these atrocities all the time," said MUA National Shipping Co-ordinator Sean Chaffer. "This sort of exploitation should not be happening in this day and age."
For example MUA officials in Port Lincoln are waiting on a ship due in tomorrow where the Filipino crew have not been paid for five months. And another sweat shop sails into Brisbane this Thursday.
"But it is not just a matter of wages. Crew abuse and environmental plunder go hand in hand. The same ships that abuse crew, pollute our oceans. At the same time the grounded Bunga Teratai Satu was threatening our world heritage Great Barrier Reef last year, two seafarers were incinerated during a fire on a ship off the west coast and another three burnt to death off the east coast," said Sean Chaffer. "And who has forgotten Rommel Salvador who jumped ship to escape horrific abuse on the Panamanian ship MV Hunter a few years back."
The MUA supports proposals to clean up the world shipping put by ICONS. These include penalising shippers that charter substandard vessels and banning ships with high detention rates from Australian waters. But the Union does not hold out much hope for improvement on the Australian coast under the current government.
"The Federal Government is politically and morally bankrupt on shipping policy," said MUA National Secretary Paddy Crumlin. "They are apologists for the new slave traders of international shipping. They insist on making Australia a shipper nation, not a shipping nation. They embrace the worst and most corrupt elements of the industry -- all in the pursuit of cheap freight rates. This government has been complicit in the international rorting, exploitation, human rights abuse and environmental plunder perpetrated by the worst elements of the world's shipping industry. Australia needs to address five years of negligence in the industry or face a major shipping disaster."
Interview: Working Woman
Cheryl Kernot on women in the workplace, Labor's male culture and where Meg went wrong.
Activists: Honouring Our Heroes
Anna Stewart changed the lives of Australian working families by helping women achieve balance between the competing demands of work and family.
Women: The Future is Female
Julia Gillard outlines the campaign to increase female representation within the Australian Labor Party.
Unions: Sweatshops Ė Beyond 2001
FairWear convenor Debbie Carstens looks over a unique partnership between churches and unions to end exploitation in the textile industry.
Politics: The Battle for Bennelong
Many trade unionists are working to kick John Howard out of office. But only one woman has a chance of kicking him out of his own seat. Meet Nicole Campbell.
International: Border Skirmishes
Alana Kerr travelled to Thailand to observe first hand the battle to organise Burmese women workers in exile.
History: Inside the Ladies Lounge
The McDonald sisters run Trades Hall, and have for over half a century. The building canít speak about what has gone on in that time, but Lorna and Elaine probably know it all.
Satire: Taliban to Put One Nation Last
The Parliamentary fate of Pauline Hansonís One Nation party was further obscured today as key fellow right-wing extremists moved to distance themselves from the controversial Queensland politician and the group she founded and leads.
Review: Seven Steps to Slavation
Jenny Macklin details the seven barriers that stand between women and a better working life.
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Last Modified: 15 Nov 2005