Fair Work Commission takes MUA to court

Union and seven seafarers face legal action over Tandara Spirit as Alexander Spirit remains tied up

Fair Work Commission takes MUA to court
The Alexander Spirit's crew has protested being made redundant. Pic: MUA


As seafarers leave the Teekay-operated products tanker Alexander Spirit, delaying its departure, Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) action on another Teekay ship is set to land the union and seafarers in court.

The Fair Work Ombudsman has begun litigation against the union and seven crew of the products tanker, Tandara Spirit, chartered by petroleum products company Viva Energy Australia, alleging they breached the Fair Work Act when they failed to comply with Fair Work Commission orders late last year to let the oil tanker leave Melbourne.

"In November last year, Viva Energy informed Teekay that its charter of the Tandara Spirit would expire in January, 2015 and requested the vessel be sailed to Singapore for return to its owners," Fair Work Ombudsman Natalie James says.

"Teekay’s subsequent requests for its employees to sail the vessel to Singapore led to an industrial dispute with some of its employees and the MUA.

"Some employees took industrial action by failing to follow Teekay’s direction to fuel the vessel in preparation for the voyage to Singapore."

On November 14, Teekay obtained Fair Work Commission (FWC) orders requiring its employees and the MUA to cease organising and participating in industrial action.

The Tandara Spirit eventually sailed for Singapore on November 26.

The workers each face a maximum penalty of $10,200 for one alleged contravention, while the MUA faces maximum potential penalties of up to $51,000 per contravention.

The agency is yet to make submissions on the amount.

A decision was made to commence legal action "because enforcing compliance with Fair Work Commission Orders is fundamental to maintaining the integrity of Australia’s system of industrial laws".

Last week, the MUA has lost its appeal to the full bench of the FWC but four of the Alexander Spirit’s crew of 36 have reportedly left the ship and she remains tied up in Devonport 10 days after she was to sail to Singapore.

The appeal had been on a ruling that it was engaging in unprotected industrial action and ordering it to desist.

Meanwhile, the MUA has announced that the Maritime International Federation (MIF) has been established, comprising the MUA, the Maritime Union of New Zealand, the Papua New Guinea Transport and Maritime Worker’s Union and Timor Leste’s SMETL.

 MIF was formed "to build capacity in the Asia-Pacific region", the MUA says.

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