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Australian seafarers to gain from Canadians’ seafarers local shipping win

20 Dec 2018
Australian seafarers are continuing their fight to secure jobs in their coastal waters, after a delegation visited Canada to examine and learn from their shipping laws which protect seafarers’ jobs and wages in Canada.

From December 9-11 in Ottawa, Canada, the Seafarers International Union of Canada (SIU Canada) hosted an Australian delegation of Labor Senator Glenn Sterle and Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) Assistant National Secretary, Warren Smith who went to gather information and gain a deeper understanding of the Canadian laws.

The Australian delegation met with parliamentarians and government department heads, and union campaigners to discuss Canada's shipping laws and maritime cabotage policy, including how Australia can follow in Canada’s footsteps to deliver coastal shipping laws that ensure Australian seafarers have a right to sail on their own coast.

Following years of campaigning spearheaded by SIU Canada to strengthen Canada’s coastal shipping laws, the Canadian Government, in September implemented changes to ensure Canadian seafarers have the first right to be employed in any available maritime jobs in Canada, while also ensuring vitally important safeguards for temporary workers.

Under the new laws any vessel operator that sails for more than 30 days on the Canadian coast must first test the Canadian labour market for available Canadian seafarers before taking on any foreign crew.

In a substantial win for seafarers, the SIU signs off on the supply of available labour. No letter of concurrence from the SIU means the vessel can only sail with a Canadian crew. The crews are changed out prior to coastal trade.

If no Canadian seafarers are available, and foreign seafarers are required to crew a vessel, the law states that these workers are paid under current Canadian industry wage rates. All temporary workers must be granted new employment contracts which clearly show the Canadian collective agreement wage rates and working conditions they are under while engaged in Canadian waters.

This is an enormous win for all seafarers, and a change in policy that removes any incentive for Canadian vessel operators to use the Temporary Foreign Worker Program to exploit foreign labour as a means to undercut and undermine the Canadian maritime industry and Canadian seafarers.

Senator Sterle said that laws like this could immensely benefit the maritime industry in Australia and Australian seafarers: “Canada’s laws ensure a thriving maritime industry but one that has their interests and the safety of their workforce as its first priority. We need these same strong laws in Australia to benefit the growth of and ensure a strong future for our maritime industry.”

The ITF Cabotage Task Force remains committed to be the leading voice in the worldwide effort to secure strong, enforceable coastal shipping laws, that ensure workers have a voice, decent work, and that protect the environment and nations’ economic and national security.

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