CAIRNS-based coastal shipping company Sea Swift says its wants to retain as many jobs as possible despite tough economic conditions brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The company has earned the wrath of the Maritime Union which accused it of an anti-union culture and of outsourcing maintenance jobs to Indonesia.

Chief executive Fred White said they had worked hard to retain staff, but unfortunately Sea Swift employees were not covered by JobKeeper payments.

“Sadly, some members of our team have lost their job as we restructured our engineering operations in the face of COVID,” Mr White said.

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“We understand that they have found work with another shipping company.”

Earlier, the MUA released a statement saying it was “unacceptable” that a major local employer indirectly owned by the Queensland public was using the pandemic to make skilled workers “forcibly redundant”.

MUA Queensland Assistant Branch Secretary Paul Gallagher said workers at the company were demanding action from the Queensland Government and QIC.

“Sea Swift’s anti-union and anti-worker culture has been clearly demonstrated by their refusal for five years to allow officials their basic legal right to board vessels and speak to union members,” he said.

Mr Smith said Sea Swift valued its employees as “an essential part of servicing communities across northern Australia”.

He noted Sea Swift’s workplace agreement was a legally-approved agreement under the Fair Work Act 2009 and that the company is about to start negotiations with unions and staff on a replacement agreement.

“Contrary to claims by the MUA, seven out of eight dockings since October 2019 have been undertaken in Australia,” he said.

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