PROTESTORS against Australians losing their jobs to foreigners caused traffic chaos outside Alcoa’s Pinjarra Refinery this morning.
Maritime Union secretary Christy Cain said about 100 protestors formed a picket line preventing vehicle movement in and out of the refinery from 6am.
Mr Cain said traffic was banked up along South-West Highway for about 10km and about 1000 people were affected.
Mr Cain said the MV Portland had been transporting alumina between Portland Victoria and WA for 27 years.
“Alcoa want to get rid of this ship and the Aussie seafarers,” he said.
“They want a new domestic route with foreign labour.”
Director of corporate affairs Brian Doy said the MV Portland is near the end of its operating life.
“It is 27-years-old and is scheduled for a statutory dry-dock in mid-January 2017,” Mr Doy said.
There are approximately 40 people in the total crew pool with 19 on the vessel at any one time.
“The cost to keep it operational is expected to be in the millions.”
Mr Cain said that some Australian workers have been there for 27 years.
“There has never been a stoppage, they are not film star wages, but they work really hard,” he said.
Mr Cain said the protest was just the beginning of a campaign to save Australian jobs.
“We want people to be asking why Alcoa is doing this,” he said.
“It is a tragedy and disgrace.”
Police were called in to move the protestors on and traffic had cleared by 9am.
Mr Doy said Alcoa is disappointed with the union action this morning.
“While production at the refinery was not impacted, night shift workers were prevented from leaving for at least one-and-a-half hours after the end of their 12 hour shift and traffic was disrupted on both Alcoa’s private road and the South West Highway,” he said.
“Alcoa is considering its legal options in relation to the blockade.”
Alcoa has chosen to sell the MV Portland and replace it with a more cost efficient method of delivery of alumina from Western Australia to the Portland aluminium smelter.
Estimated savings are more than $6 million per annum.
“The global aluminium industry is facing very challenging market conditions,” Mr Doy said.
“Alcoa Inc announced on November 2 that it would idle three smelters in the United States.
“In Australia, our focus is on reducing operating costs and improving productivity to help all our facilities remain internationally competitive.
“Decommissioning the MV Portland is one of a number of cost saving measures being taken by Alcoa in an attempt to help protect approximately 700 direct jobs and many more indirect jobs associated with the Portland smelter.”