Vinalines accused of paying ‘slave wages’

Singapore: The crew of the Tandara Spirit have set off to Singapore after around 20 days protesting off Melbourne. The crew told Fairfax Media they had decided to sail to avoid "destructive legal action" targeting them personally.

A Vietnamese tanker had been dragged into a the strike in a debate over fuel security and the environment in Australia. The 18 crew of the Tandara Spirit product tanker have been on strike in Melbourne’s Port Phillip Bay. The all-Australian crew believe that the charterer Viva Energy will make them redundant if they return to Singapore and choose a cheaper option from Southeast Asia instead. 

The Tandara Spirit is owned by Teekay Shipping Australia and has been delivering fuel to Australia for a number of years. Viva Energy has said it will not renew its charter with Teekay which ends next month and will instead charter the Vinalines Galaxy, which uses far cheaper Vietnamese crew.

The crew onboard Tandara Spirit argue that Australia is becoming too reliant on foreign flagged and foreign crewed ships for its energy consumption. They also site Vinalines Galaxy’s very mixed safety record as a potential threat to Australia’s marine environment when it starts regular runs to a refinery in Geelong in the new year.

In an open letter the crew wrote yesterday:  "We are ordinary working people. We're not trying to be political activists. We just want to do our jobs in Australian waters. So although we are ending our sit in for now, our conviction that we are doing the right thing – both for ourselves and for the nation – is unbent.

"We do not want to sail to Singapore to be sacked by Viva Energy and replaced with foreign-based crew being paid as little as $2 an hour. We believe that there can and should be a role for hardworking Australians in shipping fuel to this country.
"We do not believe our industrial system should be undermined by companies who would prefer to pay foreign crew slave wages."  [26/11/14]
 

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