Warren Smith, assistant secretary of the Maritime Union of Australia, addressed Occupy Sydney at Martin Place on October 22. His speech appears below.
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Some people have been asking why the Maritime Union of Australia is here today, why we’ve been here since day one, why we have given the support and solidarity that we have, and will continue to give, to this wonderful movement right around Australia and right around the world.
We are here, very simply, because we believe in the principals of this movement. We believe that this society does not deliver for ordinary working men and women. It’s tailored toward corporate greed. It’s tailored toward the big end of town and it’s time that this unsustainable system was changed for the better.
We also believe very dearly — it runs through our veins — in the question of solidarity. The struggle of every working person, every exploited person, every oppressed person, is the responsibility of every other person to get together, to fight together, to stand together in solidarity. The only way we can win is together.
We don’t want a society based on corporate greed, on brutal class exploitation. We don’t want a society based on consistent attacks on working men and women, every day of their lives. And that’s what we see. And this sort of movement is what we need to do to get together, to stand up and say “enough is enough” to the big end of town, “We are the 99%. We’re here and we’re going to fight you all the way.”
Why would we want a society where we spend $70 million a day on war when that hospital across the road is doing it tough? People can’t get into that hospital. People are hungry. People are going without housing. Their jobs are being attacked. Their wages and conditions are being wound back.
Why would we want a society of that nature? We don’t and we want to change this society for the better and this movement is an expression of that from the 99% of people in the world.
We’re currently engaged in a number of battles. At the moment we’re having a battle with Shell. They run shipping, they’ve got oil tankers. Shell makes $51 million a year profit. If you work that out, they make $35,000 every minute.
On the ship that they are trying to replace us with cheap labour on, they pay for in three minutes the yearly wage of the most qualified seafarer on that vessel, but what’s their story to us? “You’re too dear. Down the gangway you go and we’re going to replace you with cheap flag of convenience shipping and undermine Australia’s national shipping industry.”
That’s an expression of the corporate greed we’re fighting. They’re the struggles that we’re fighting as a union and that’s why we’re here with you standing in solidarity.
Nothing comes without struggle. All the times we’ve won conditions for workers … we’ve never had a boss come down into the smoko room and say to the gang: “You’ve done a good job so we’ll give you some more money.”
It never happens. The only way we get anything is if we stand up, we unite and we fight. And that’s our massage for here as well. The only way we’re going to succeed against these corporate pirates and criminals. We stand up together and fight. That’s why we’re here and that’s why we’re going or stay here.
We’re currently engaged in a range of different struggles. We’re taking strike action against virtually every stevedore company in the country. Not because we’re about greed for a particular set of workers — that’s a wrong analysis.
We are fighting for our fair share of what we produce and we produce plenty. Workers on the waterfront are the ones that make the profits for the big stevedoring companies … They see us as a cash cow, wanting to wind us back and reduce our conditions of work.
Currently down in Melbourne, we’ve got a 48-hour stoppage at POAGS. But also over the last week they’ve locked us out down there and we’ve got scabs on the Melbourne waterfront — again. By the same company that done this in ’98, the same company is doing this now.
We need to stand up and fight and we will fight. We will repel the attacks of those big corporate interests and we’re going to stand up and fight again, with you and the expressions of solidarity from this group. Also the wonderful inspiration that our members get when they see people on the street is a positive thing.
And we see that your movement here, and everything that this movement stands for, is totally linked to the struggles … we engage in every single day around the waterfront and within the maritime industry. So we thank you for that.
Lastly, this movement must continue. Who knows what form it’s going to continue in, but we must fight to make sure it remains and it grows because it is the hope of humanity.
Finally, we are seeing people not hived off into separate little interests, separate issue groups. We have seen a movement that encompasses all that is wrong with society. All that is wrong with big end of town and their rapacious greed and their willing to tread over the top of working men and women. Corporate greed.
We say we’re for human need and we’re for standing in solidarity with every person who needs a fair go.
Lastly, if you look behind us, Sydney City Council have put some nice flags up. “What if we never stood up for what we believe in?”
Well, things would just get worse. And we’re here to say thank you to Sydney City Council because we are standing up for what we believe in, and we are going to win!