Crew members on the Manly Fast Ferries service between Circular Quay and Manly Harbour went on strike on April 3 for the second time as part of their ongoing campaign for improved wages and conditions.
The workers are demanding a 38-hour work week, annual and sick leave, permanency of employment and proper pay loadings for casual work.
The Fast Ferries company, owned by the corporatised motorists' organisation NRMA, is the only privatised section of Sydney's ferry fleet. It also has the lowest wages and conditions on the harbour, and a fully casualised workforce.
The Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) has organised solidarity rallies at the Circular Quay terminal to coincide with the strike actions. The first one, on March 3, blocked scab crews from operating the ferries.
The latest action forced NRMA management to suspend ferry services for the morning of April 3.
About 200 MUA members and supporters rallied outside the Manly Fast Ferries terminal in Circular Quay to hear union leaders and members address the issues of the dispute.
MUA Sydney branch secretary Paul McAleer praised the "brave and courageous workers" for their determination.
"We should boycott Manly Fast Ferries until justice for the workers is achieved," McAleer said.
Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union NSW secretary Steve Murphy, which covers NRMA road patrol staff, said: "We need to win this dispute and to change the rules on industrial relations in this country."
National Tertiary Education Union state secretary Michael Thomson offered solidarity from the university sector.
Michael, a leading MUA delegate at Manly Fast Ferries, told the crowd: "We are not asking for a lot. Management is refusing us permanent work and asking us to continue to accept the lowest wages on the harbour.
“This is not going to happen," he said.
MUA national secretary Paddy Crumlin told the rally: "NRMA stands for No Respect for Maritime workers in Australia."
He insisted that the MUA, and the union movement generally, would continue to support the ferry workers in their dispute.
A minute's silence was held for a young construction worker who was killed on the job in Sydney's northern suburbs the previous day.
Two representatives from the Rail, Tram and Bus Union (RTBU) urged those present to join them at a protest later that day to offer support to an RTBU delegate who had recently been sacked by the privatised Sydney Metro company.