MUA

Melbourne unionists closed down Webb Dock in Port Melbourne. Photo: Matt Hrkac

On December 8, national president of the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) Christy Cain told a peaceful assembly of trade unionists and their supporters that every dock in Melbourne had been closed.

On that day, some 3000 trade unionists attended a rally at Webb Dock in Port Melbourne called by Victorian Trades Hall Council (VTHC) in support of MUA members protesting the bullying, harassment and sacking of their members.

Momentum for a new super-union has accelerated with a strong vote by members of the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) and the Textile Clothing and Footwear Union of Australia (TCFUA) in favour of amalgamating with the giant Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU). Both unions reported an overwhelming Yes vote.

The MUA vote was 87% in favour, with 50% of members participating. This involvement is higher than past internal MUA elections for union officers.

One Song One Union
Phil Monsour
www.philmonsour.com

In August 2015, 97 wharfies employed by Hutchison Ports in Brisbane and Sydney awoke to emails and text messages informing them they were sacked. Not enough work to go around, the company said.

Within 24 hours, trade unionists had established community picket lines at both ports and the Maritime Union of Australia was in court seeking reinstatement orders. As news spread, supporters began making their way to the picket camps.

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.

Chants of "MUA, here to stay!" rang out outside the electoral office of Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull on April 13, as around 200 members of the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) rallied in protest against federal government attacks on the shipping industry, threats to reduce penalty rates and the Coalition's industrial relations agenda.

More than 400 workers from several unions, notably the CFMEU, took their fight straight to billion dollar miner Rio Tinto for its complicity in sacking Australian seafarers and replacing them with foreign workers, who are paid as little as $2 an hour.

On February 5 in the Port of Newcastle, five crew members were marched down the gangway of the CSL Melbourne by more than 30 police. Those same police escorted the foreign replacement crew onto the ship to sail it away.

One of Tony Abbott’s first acts as Prime Minister was to announce a Royal Commission to “shine a spotlight” onto the so-called “dark corners” of the trade union movement. The commission would expose the criminality and impropriety that allegedly blights Australia’s trade unions.

Led by former High Court Judge John Dyson Heydon, the Royal Commission into Trade Union Governance and Corruption officially began in February 2014.

Talks are continuing in the Fair Work Commission between the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) and Hutchison Ports over the sacking of 97 waterside workers on August 6. Meanwhile, community assemblies are being maintained outside the gates of Hutchison terminals at Port Botany and the Port of Brisbane.

The company has said it is seeking a new enterprise agreement with the union, and has agreed to pay wages to the sacked workers until at least mid-November.

"This morning marks 50 days since the start of this important dispute," Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) Sydney branch assistant secretary Paul Garrett told Green Left Weekly on September 25.

He was speaking at the community assembly outside the Hutchison Ports terminal at Port Botany, which was set up after the company's sudden sacking of 97 waterside workers by text and email on August 6.

A resolution of the long-running dispute between the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) and Hutchison Ports is reported to be near, as the community assemblies continue at the terminals at Port Botany and the Port of Brisbane.

A further hearing in Fair Work Australia is due in the week beginning September 21.

The dispute began on August 6, with the midnight sacking by text and email of 97 waterside workers at the two ports.

Following a Federal Court injunction, the sacked workers are back on the payroll, but are not being rostered on to work.

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