WA union firebrand Christy Cain has issued an extraordinary demand for the State Government to review all mining contracts with BHP unless the company reverses a decision to replace Australian crews with foreigners on iron ore ships.
In a dramatic escalation of the fight between the Maritime Union of Australia and the mining giant, Mr Cain said Premier Mark McGowan should look at cancelling mining leases with BHP unless it committed to reinstating Australian workers.
The MUA boss said Mr McGowan should be following the example of Federal Labor leader Bill Shorten, who has been critical of the BHP decision.
Last month, BHP axed an historic domestic shipping contract to transport iron ore from Port Hedland to Port Kembla, with the routes likely to be replaced by vessels crewed by foreigners. Mr Cain has complained that Mr McGowan has been silent on the foreign shipping issue.
But the Premier said he had been in contact with the mining company recently. “I personally made contact with BHP to advocate for the reinstatement of seafarers and the retention of Australian crewed ships,” he said. “I urge BHP to maximise its Australian workforce,” Mr McGowan said.
The MUA demands loom as a test of union power inside WA Labor.
Last month, the Government revealed it had banned Mr Cain from any access to the Premier’s office until Mr Cain issued an apology to Environment Minister Stephen Dawson after a dispute over fracking.