BHP Billiton the Anglo-Australian multinational mining company headquartered in Australia has dumped its Australian crew from two vessels that carried iron ore from Port Hedland in Western Australia to steelworks in Port Kembla and to China.
“BHP has turned its back on Australian values. The once proudly Australian company has used a legal loophole to avoid paying Australian workers their entitlements and chosen to lower its working standards and conditions,” said Sharan Burrow, General Secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation.
80 Australian seafarers will lose their jobs, ending more than 100 years of Australian-crewed iron ore shipping servicing BHP and BlueScope steelworks. The jobs will be replaced with crew on Flag of Convenience (FoC) vessels which exploit cheap foreign labour, and are registered in jurisdictions which allow companies to avoid paying tax.
“It is totally unacceptable for global businesses to exploit the workers of low wage countries by transporting them to high wage jurisdictions to take the jobs off local workers. This is not how a good global corporate employer behaves. For the trade union delegation in Davos, the case of BHP represents the crisis facing the global economy,” said Burrow.
“BHP’s use of insecure, low wage jobs will do nothing but fuel insecurity, fear and inequality. BHP’s corporate influence over the Australian government, who issued visas for low wage workers to assist the sacking of Australian workers, demonstrates the risk to democracy when governments fail to protect their own citizens. Fear and insecurity are generating an age of anger,” concluded Burrow.
Stephen Cotton, General Secretary of the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) also condemned BHP’s decision from Davos today: “Seafarers working on Flag of Convenience registered ships are subject to poor working conditions and lower wages because they are at the mercy of a system that allows for minimum regulation and the acquisition of cheap labour.”
“BHPs replacement of decent jobs with exploited workers exposes their corporate greed and the Australian government’s failure to take responsibility for its own citizens,” said Cotton.
The ITUC has joined Australian trade unions and the International Transport Workers’ Federation in putting BHP on notice and demanding that these jobs are immediately reinstated.