"Australian merchant seafarers demand and expect to have the right to work in their own country" read a letter from the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) state secretary Bob Carnegie to the general manager of Rio Tinto.
"Our resolve is strong and if necessary we will engage Rio Tinto in a long and tortuous public debate about how the second largest mining house in the world justifies employing foreign nationals at a pittance whilst skilled Australian merchant seafarers are forced onto the dole, selling their homes and feeling left out of this life... whilst Rio Tinto pulls in $8 billion dollars in profits per year," the letter read.
Carnegie made a point of emphasising to the crowd that the MUA protest is not in any way against "people from other nations".
"One of the things that we're most proud of in the MUA is that we're an internationalist based organisation" and that "an injury to one worker anywhere in the world is an injury to all workers everywhere in the world".
He introduced a "dear comrade" who has had more than 35 years experience in the industry who had attempted suicide the previous night. He has been out of work for more than two years and is expecting his house to be repossessed next week.
By contrast, the super exploited foreign workers on Rio Tinto ships are paid "$4 an hour" according to the union.
The union sent a delegation into the Rio Tinto office to present their demands and marched along Charlotte St blocking traffic in Brisbane city.
Solidarity messages were presented by Michael Clifford from the Queensland Council of Unions and representatives of the Electrical Trades Union. Other unions present included the Queensland Teachers Union, the Rail Tram and Bus Employees Union, the Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Unoin and the new Retail and Fast Food Workers Union. Also present were representatives from Socialist Alliance, Socialist Alternative and the Queensland Anti-Poverty Network.
This action is part of an ongoing campaign for the MUA.
Photos from the MUA protest for seafarer jobs in Brisbane on March 15. More photos on the Green Left facebook page.