Filipino crew win USD258 in Australian wages

The Ken Ei crew won a fight to be paid wages owing. Credit: Glenn Towler

Crew on board the Panamanian registered Ken Ei working the Australian coastal trade have received a total of AUD38,364 (USD258) in wages owing, after seeking help from the International Transport Workers’ Federation.

Under the Coastal Trading (Revitalising Australian Shipping) Act 2012 international vessels working the coastal trade must pay their crew Australian minimum award rates after the first two domestic voyages.

ITF inspector Matt Purcell boarded the bulk carrier in Westernport, Victoria in January.

“I was straight off approached by six of the crew – four ratings and two officers,” Purcell told Safety at Sea.  “They knew about the coastal payments but the owners had told them nothing.  They were wondering whether they were ever going to be paid and how it worked.”

Purcell went straight to the operator INUI GLOBAL LOGISTICS CO LTD and reminded them of their obligations. The Japanese owners didn’t know how the system worked and got straight onto the charterer, BlueScope.

“It’s the charterers who are responsible,” said Purcell.   “But they got the calculation wrong.  It was half what the crew should have been paid.  So we we said ‘This is how you calculate it’ and they agreed.”

The vessel sailed to Port Kembla  on 24 January where ITF Australia coordinator Dean Summers  oversaw that the 20 crew all got the payments owed to them. It is now en route to Long Beach, United States of America.

Fairwork Australia inspectors are supposed to police whether the coastal wages are paid, however Purcell says they only have a handful of people to do the job.

“They need to double their staff,” he said.

Both Bluescope and Fairwork Australia were contacted for comment.

“Wage theft is one of the biggest problems in the global shipping industry,” Summers said in a media release.  “In December last year alone, ITF ipsectors conducted 761 inspections (globally) and recovered almost USD2 million in wages stolen from the world’s seafarers.”