Win for Maritime Union
By Jane Kelly
FREMANTLE — The Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) won a victory on June 2 against the Western Australian government and anti-union contractor Len Buckeridge, with the Stateships vessel, the Sina, was moved to unionised Patricks Stevedores.
The deal was struck after two weeks of strikes and extremely heavy pressure against the Liberal government from industry. The strike was estimated in its second week to be costing WA ports $5 million daily.
However, Premier Richard Court announced on Saturday that Stateships will be shut down, a decision he blames entirely on the dispute.
The previous night, the joint national secretary of the MUA, John Coombs, addressed workers at the picket and warned that the full agenda of the government had been revealed in meetings that day. He said, "We know now there has been no distinction between the efforts of Len Buckeridge to start his stevedoring company and the efforts of Len Buckeridge to get control of the Stateships operations".
In November Buckeridge tendered (along with eight other companies) for the management of Stateships. The government scrapped the tendering process without explanation.
Coombs also expressed the concerns of seafarers that the government intends to dispose of Stateships to a non-union company, which would register the ships under a "flag of convenience" in a foreign country and use cheap foreign non-union labour on the vessels.
Coombs assured the members that the MUA is prepared to take action to protect their jobs. "I pledge to you that every second of every hour that a foreign flag ship works at this port, nothing else will work in this port while it's here."
He told them that in the current situation the MUA will support the selling of Stateships because it has lost faith in the government's ability to run the line.
In further developments, the State Supply Commissions inquiry into the stevedoring contract found major breaches in the tendering process. However, the Court government stood by the contract, which neither the MUA nor the Industrial Relations Commission has seen. The MUA is taking action in the Supreme Court this week to have the contract negated.