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Standoff between foreign workers and ship owners over conditions

A tense standoff is underway between foreign workers and ship owners at the Port of Newcastle over unpaid wages and alleged “abusive” working conditions.
Seafarers walked off the Hong Kong-owned Unison Jasper about 7am, after a disagreement with the owners.

The crew, made up of Chinese and Burmese nationals, have been on board the ship for 14 months and claim they are being intimidated into signing contract extensions.

Workers disembarking the ship today.
Workers disembarking the ship today. (9News)

Dean Summers from the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) told NBN News the Taiwanese shipping company has labelled the seafarers deserters.

“They’re holding their passports, their holding their seafarers’ books,” Mr Summers said.

“For 14 months they haven’t stepped off that ship, it’s a prison sentence, worse than a prison sentence because at least you know when you are coming out of the knick, you don’t know on this ship and there’s been no plans to get them home.”

“This shipping company is dictating the terms, the chairman of the board for the Taiwanese shipping company are dictating terms to the Australian authorities on what they will and won’t do, that’s outrageous,” he added.

The crew, made up of Chinese and Burmese nationals, have been on board the ship for 14 months.
The crew, made up of Chinese and Burmese nationals, have been on board the ship for 14 months. (9News)

The workers also claim their pay has decreased by 75 per cent.

MUA National Secretary Paddy Crumlin described the treatment of the crew as “an extreme form of exploitation that has no place in Australian waters”.

“Quite frankly, the Australian Government allowed things to get this bad on the Unison Jasper.

“They were clearly unconcerned with the seafarers’ conditions on board when they freely issued a temporary licence to this ship just last month.

Seafarers walked off the Hong Kong-owned Unison Jasper about 7am.
Seafarers walked off the Hong Kong-owned Unison Jasper about 7am. (9News)

“The mistreatment of these Burmese seafarers is not only illegal under Australian law, it is a clear breach of the international Maritime Labour Convention.

“The companies which are profiting from exploitation in our waters, and indeed anywhere, should be held to account,” he added.

Police have retrieved the passports and are working to organise getting the crew into quarantine in Sydney.

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