A community assembly of more than 100 people marched onto the roadway outside Patrick Terminals terminal at Port Botany on May 4 and occupied the road for three hours, halting port operations for an entire shift.
The protesters were supporting of waterside workers at Patricks who are standing up to the company's attempts to de-unionise a section of the terminal.
Speakers from a number of unions, including UnionsNSW, the National Tertiary Education Union, the Australian Workers Union, the Public Service Association, the United Services Union and Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) veterans expressed support and solidarity with the MUA members involved in the dispute.
Many recounted the previous Patricks dispute in 1998, when the company attempted to smash the MUA using masked guards and dogs, and were defeated by a huge campaign by unionists and supporters. They also stressed the role of the community assembly at nearby Hutchison Ports in stopping the sackings of many workers at that terminal.
Messages of solidarity have been received for the current Patricks dispute from a number of other unions, both Australian and international, including the International Transport Federation (ITF).
ITF general secretary Steve Cotton has written to the management of Patricks Stevedores urging it to negotiate in good faith with its workforce.
"The ITF has become aware of a number of disputes in your Port Botany terminal, including outsourcing rail work, and the decision by Patrick Stevedores to sub-lease an area inside the terminal to Qube-Brookfield to carry out work performed traditionally by Australian wharfies. This includes forklift, reachstacker, clerical and foreman duties," the letter said.
"This decision is not supported by the ACTU, and we support the MUA in their struggle in support of wharfies and maritime workers.
"We are reminded of the 1998 dispute during the national lockout of MUA workers from the Australian waterfront by Patrick, and a return to their anti-union crusade.
"The ITF condemns these decisions in the strongest possible terms and recognise our solidarity with the Maritime Union of Australia and their fight for justice on the Sydney waterfront.
"We are aware of attempts by the MUA Sydney Branch to negotiate a resolution of the dispute, and we urge you in the strongest possible terms to resolve the dispute so as to avoid protracted industrial disputation which is not in the interest of Patrick, but more importantly the wharfies you employ.
"We look forward to you resolving this dispute as soon as possible with the Maritime Union of Australia Sydney Branch."