PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT
Pacific Islands Development Program/East-West Center
Center for Pacific Islands Studies/University of Hawai‘i at Manoa
PROTEST OVER TREATMENT OF TUVALU AND KIRIBATI SEAMEN
SYDNEY, Australia (May 19, 1999 – Radio Australia)---Australian seamen plan to hold a series of protests against the German owned Columbus Line, alleging it is paying Pacific Island crews well below the agreed international pay rate.
The Australian Maritime Workers Union reports that seamen from Tuvalu and Kiribati are only being paid half the internationally accepted minimum rate.
It said Columbus has forced a pay cut of 30 percent since 1996, because the seamen are paid in Australian dollars, rather than American dollars.
International Transport Workers Federation representative Trevor Charles said the shipping company has threatened job losses if the seamen are paid the correct rate.
"The German shipowners run the line," he said.
"They say, ‘Oh, well, if we're going to have to pay more for you the costs are going to be too high. The airfares coming out of those islands to take you to the vessel are higher than anywhere else in the world. We'll just use Burmese, or Sri Lankans, or Bangladeshis or wherever we can get labor from.’
"So they sort of hold this gun at their head," Charles said, and "they'll walk away from these islanders and leave them without any prospect of any work.