MARITIME UNION PROTESTS ABUSE UNDER TONGAN FLAG

MELBOURNE, Australia (Radio Australia, Feb. 28) - Australian maritime workers demonstrated outside the Sydney offices of a shipping company, in support of Tongan seafarers.

The company, Intercontinental Ship Management, has been accused of flying a Tongan flag of convenience on two coastal vessels and employing cheap Tongan labor.

Dean Summers, of the International Transport Workers Federation, led the demonstration, organized by the Maritime Union of Australia.

Summers said demonstrators are concerned at the treatment of the Tongan crews.

"They’re underpaid," he said. "I understand they’re very unhappy ships. I think there is at least one case that's been brought to the attention of the police, there’s some violence on board," said Summers.

"We are blaming this company, ISM, and we will blame the Australian government for the permit system that allows them to do that."

February 28, 2003

Radio Australia: http://abc.net.au/ra

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