Sam Wainwright

Wharfies employed by stevedoring company Patrick at four different ports across Australia took strike action in the last week of January in pursuit of a new enterprise bargaining agreement (EBA).

It was the most significant industrial action on the wharves since the 1998 Patrick lockout.

In recent ballots organised by Fairwork Australia, workers at the strike-affected ports voted (by margins of 94% to 100%) to take a range of different forms of industrial action to press their claim.

In early November, I attended the Wesfarmers AGM at the Perth Convention Centre. Yes, that Wesfarmers, the one that owns Coles, Bunnings, Officeworks, coal mines and plenty more. Not my usual sort of haunt, but I was there holding proxy votes for members of the Australia Western Sahara Association.

Western Sahara was a Spanish colony until 1975, when Morocco invaded the country before a vote of self-determination could be held.

Fremantle Council is grappling with the rights and conditions of the workers who it expects to implement the city’s projects. I’ve proposed a policy called “Employment Values for the City of Fremantle”. For supporters of workers’ rights, the policy is straightforward and modest.

It seeks to entrench the following principles:

1. Respecting the right of workers to union organisation and representation.
2. Limiting the use of fixed-term contracts and creating a guaranteed path to permanency.
3. Remunerating employees on the basis of equal pay and conditions for work of equal value.

Work on every wharf in every port across Australia stopped for 24 hours from noon on July 23 to allow wharfies to attend services to mark the tragic death of Steve Piper.

Piper was crushed to death by a steel beam on Melbourne's Appleton Dock on July 14. The 24-hour stopwork also called for special national waterfront safety regulations.

Piper is the third wharfie killed on the job this year. Fourteen Australian maritime workers have been killed at work in the past two decades. Alarmingly, half of those have occurred in the past five years.

A near-disaster involving toxic waste in the southern Perth suburb of Hamilton Hill has revealed that working class neighbourhoods are exposed to potential carcinogens local resident and Socialist Alliance candidate Sanna Andrew said.

The Fremantle Steam Laundry in Hamilton Hill burst into flames in the early hours of May 13. Fire fighters ordered some nearby residents to evacuate because the factory had a stockpile of the dry cleaning chemical perchloroethylene (PCE).

Truth is stranger than fiction! What else can describe the extraordinary revelation by Fremantle Greens MP Adele Carles on April 25 of her four-month affair with Liberal Party MP and now ex-treasurer Troy Buswell, and her subsequent resignation from the Greens on May 6?

For some commentators in the corporate media, the pity of the whole thing is that Buswell’s “considerable talents” will go to waste and his potential to succeed Colin Barnett as premier has been undone by his bad judgment.

Seafarers in the offshore oil and gas industry, members of the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA), are on the verge of winning historic improvements to their pay and working conditions, including a 30% pay rise and construction allowances that would give them parity with other workers involved in the construction phase of oil and gas projects.

On July 4, 30 people gathered at Victoria Quay for a vigil against the presence of two nuclear- armed and powered US Navy vessels. The action, Called by the Fremantle Anti-Nuclear Group, was entirely peaceful — except for the extraordinary decision by the police to arrest and charge veteran anti-nuclear campaigner Jo Vallentine.

The victory for Greens candidate Adele Carles in the May 16 by-election for the WA state seat of Fremantle is a breakthrough for the progressive movement and a testament to the Greens’ consistent efforts to raise a left alternative to Labor.

On the weekend of February 7-8, over 600 delegates and as many observers attended the founding conference of France’s New Anti-capitalist Party (NPA), held at la Plaine-Saint-Denis in the working class suburbs to the north of Paris.

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