War on the Wharfies News Summary
April 98



News Summary - Wednesday 15 April

Injunctions against MUA picketing

The Supreme Court of Western Australia in Perth has granted an interim injunction against the Maritime Union (MUA), 5 officials and seven members including state secretary Terry Buck. The ruling prohibits the Maritime union and the other defendants from interfering with trucks wanting to cross the picket line at Patrick's Fremantle terminal. The writ also seeks damages against the 12 men for loss of earnings. The hearing will continue tomorrow. Terry Buck expressed his outrage "The actions in suing individual sacked workers is un-Australian. It's below the belt and it's one of the most disgusting legal attacks I'm aware of." He is advising members not to obstruct trucks in the mean time.

Meanwhile, a similar application by Patrick to prohibit picketing in Sydney and Newcastle has been granted by the Supreme Court of N.S.W. The MUA's national secretary, Mr John Coombs, has warned the granting of the injunctions would lead to an intensification in the dispute. "If they get an injunction, we will escalate the dispute and escalate it very quickly. Stage three is a huge escalation of the dispute across the country and if it is forced, it will be forced by the courts."

In the Federal Court, sitting in Melbourne, the interim injunction against the dismissal of the 2100 Patrick workers has been extended a further day. In arguing for another injunction to reinstate the employees, counsel for the Maritime Union told the court the company surreptiously, dishonestly and with the utmost of secrecy plotted the sackings six months ago, amid a $300 million company restructure.

After the court adjournment this afternoon, Jennie George, ACTU president said that there is evidence of great collusion between the Government and Patrick Stevedores. "My appeal to Mr Howard would be - and to Mr Reith - you have been elected to lead this nation, not to divide us. What you've been doing is creating division. Mr Reith should be trying to resolve this difficult dispute instead of provoking it further."

In further revelations, it appears Patrick has not paid health fund contributions deducted from employees pay for up to the last 6 months. This can only be seen as negligence at the best, and at worst it must be considered as Patrick defrauding their employees.

(Source: ABC, The Age 15/4/98)

From the Picket Line 15 April 1998


News Summary - Tuesday 14 April

From the Picket Line 14 April 1998

Federal Government - breaching own laws?

The Federal Government has been accused of breaching international labour laws through its actions in the current waterfront dispute. Senior lecturer in Industrial Relations at the University of Southern Queensland, Jim McDonald, says the Federal Government has obligations under two ILO convetions: that it protects the right of employees to establish and join organisations of their choosing; and that it protects them against acts of anti-union discrimination and promotes collective bargaining and effective collective representation. Mr McDonald says in supporting the non-union National Farmers' Federation stevedoring company and Patrick, Workplace Relations Minister Peter Reith appears to contravene both. This aggressive support has political risks, potentially damaging the credibility of the Government's labour market reform program.

Corrigan offers jobs - at a high price

Corrigan has offered some workers jobs - at a price - signing their life away with an individual employment contract, known as an Australian Workplace Agreement. John Coombs, says union members will keep their memberships, and he warns they will not sign such contracts. "We always knew that Corrigan would want the workforce to go back there. That's what this is all about. It's got nothing to do with productivity, it's got plenty to do with gettign these individual contracts established on the Australian waterfront."

The Maritime union is preparing for a long struggle against Patrick by maintaining pickets and international Bans. "If they get a few containers off a ship, so what. In the long run, the international shipping community will be deterred by their poor crane rates and lack of reliability . . . responsible shipowners are negotiating at this very moment to get out of this diabolical situation. We will be here for as long as it takes to get our employment back."

The Maritime Union also bitterly attacked the chairman of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, Professor Allan Fels, for the ACCC's role in moving actively to enforce the Trade Practices Act's prohibitions on secondary boycotts during the dock dispute. John Coombs accused the ACCC of being "the new ASIO" and had staff "down here mixing with our members, trying to get among us, tapping into our discussions". "[Professor Fels] has an ego as big as this country. He is a union buster. He would be better off cleaning out the corporate thugs who are shifting out assets to deny workers their jobs."

(Sources: ABC, Sydney Morning Herald, The Age - 14/4/98)


News Summary - Monday 13 April

From the Picket Line 12-13 April 1998

While Corrigan and Reith have declared they have won the war on the wharfies, the reality is very far from that. They are beating up media coverage and trying to shore up the support of the shipping companies. Action by unionists around the world is just starting. Ship owners whose ships frequent Patrick terminals will find their ships will end up severely off schedule, as much from the poorly and hastily trained non-union workforce at Patrick as from any union action. The legal challenges by the MUA and ACTU are about to get under way. These could prove both damaging and embarrassing for Patrick and the Federal Government. Picket lines at Patrick terminals around Australia are being successful in stopping containers moving in and out of Patrick terminals. And lastly, community support groups are commencing and neutral parties such as church leaders are speaking out. (Source: ABC, ABC Radio, Sydney Morning Herald - 13/3/98 & 14/3/98)


News Summary - Saturday 11 April

Injunction Against ITF

Patrick Stevedores has served an injunction on the International Transport Workers Federation (ITF). in London to block international support for Australian dockworkers. The injunction, which was granted on Thursday, restrains the ITF until Wednesday from interfering with Patrick's trade, or inducing or threatening to induce anyone to break their contract with Patrick. The ITF had been negotiating with two shipping companies, Contship and the Mediterranean Shipping Company, to persuade them not to use Patrick's facilities in Australia. A spokeswoman said the ITF is "appalled" by Patrick's move, but will respect the injunction.

(ABC 11/4/98)

International Solidarity

More on San Fransisco Protest
A hastily called together group of about 50 pickets held a spirited demo outside of the consulate building in San Fransisco. The demonstration was attended by unionists and union officials from the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, and representatives of the Sailors Union of the Pacific.

Brian McWilliams, Int'l President, International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU); Jim "Spinner" Spinoza, ILWU Int'l Vice Pres. (Mainland), Big Bob McElrath, ILWU Northwest Longshore Coast Committeeman; Ray Ortiz, ILWU California Longshore Coast Committeeman; other ILWU officials; and, apparently, representatives of the Sailors Union of the Pacific, were arrested for blockading the door of the consulate after coming downstairs from their meeting/attempted meeting with Australian gov't officials.

(Takver 10/4/98)

From the Picket Line - 11 April

The Maritime Union has claimed that the ANL container ship, Australian Endeavour, was "deliberately" transferred from its normal dock at the unionised P&O dock to the Patrick non-union dock at Port Botany. The MUA's national secretary, Mr John Coombs, said last night: "We will be doing everything we can to frustrate their [Patrick's] attempts to dock that ship. Make no mistake about that." The MUA is confident that its members among the 35 crew on board the Australian Endeavour arriving from Korea will do nothing to help berth the ship at Patrick's Port Botany terminal. The union is also confident that MUA tug boat operators, from the seafarers' division, will not meet the ship.

Another Australian-manned ship, The River Torrens, was also due to be taken to Patrick's Darling Harbour dock in Sydney tomorrow.

(Sydney Morning Herald, Australian 11/4 )

The Maritime Union of Australia claimed yesterday Patrick's non-union workers had breached safety rules at Brisbane's Fisherman Islands wharves while unloading 700 containers from the French ship CGM Gaugin. MUA official Jeff Langdon said "We know the non-union labour's not doing the right thing because the Patrick scabs have gone on board the vessel without a gangway neck being up. The gangway neck covers the gangway ... and the scabs could fall down between them and get killed."

A ship manned by members of the New Zealand Seafarers Union has deferred berthing at Patricks Fishermans Wharf in Brisbane. New Zealand Seafarers say that the ship owner is staying clear of Patrick because of the dispute.

(ABC Radio,Australian 11/4)

ACCC chairman Alan Fels said the commission was watching closely developments in the waterfront dispute and any prosecutions for secondary boycotts would depend on the circumstances. He conceded one-day protests, like that planned by Victorian unions on May 6, were unlikely to constitute illegal boycotts.

(Australian 11/4)

Union Strategy - patience required

The Maritime Union of Australia yesterday warned unions would shut down the country unless they succeeded in sending Patrick stevedores out of business and winning back jobs for the 1400 sacked waterside workers.

John Coombs outlined the strategy yesterday for the union. He said the first stage was to demonstrate there was a conspiracy involving the Federal Government to destroy the union. The second stage, authorised on Thursday night, was financial support for the sacked workers, while unions pressured Patrick through the courts and internationally. Mr Coombs said unions would move to the third stage - "massive disruption" throughout Australia - if Patrick did not buckle to the union demands. "If we have to move to the third stage of the strategy, we will. But you want to hope, and the rest of the people of this country want to hope, that we don't. It could be as soon as tomorrow or as soon as three months."

The strategy depends upon whether Corrigan can build an effective non-MUA operation on the docks. Even without taking action that would breach secondary boycott provisions of the Trade Practices Act, the unions are confident the company will fail to secure either an adequate workforce or a significant share of the market.

(The Age, Sydney Morning Herald 11/4)

The Conspiracy

The Age reported:
For more than 12 months, it has been clear that the Government has played a central role in shaping the strategies of Patrick and more recently the National Farmers Federation. Those promoting the conspiracy theory have looked no further than a leaked Department of Industrial Relations minute from March 1997 that canvassed the idea that a dispute - of itself - would produce desired change on the waterfront. The minute said: "Stevedores would need to activate well-prepared strategies to dismiss their workforce, and replace them with another, quickly, in a way that limited the prospect of, for example, the (Industrial Relations) Commission ordering reinstatement of the current workforce.''

(The Age 11/4/98)

The Financial Review released information from a secret report funded by the Government:

Secret government research showing widespread community support for an assault on the wharfies convinced the Prime Minister, John Howard, to press on with his bid to crack the power of the Maritime Union of Australia.... The report recommended that the Government use the public debate to "position" the MUA as the "bullies" while alerting the population that tough action was essential. It also made the point that few participants expressed "top-of-mind" concerns that an attack on the wharfies would be the first step in a wider assault on the union movement.

(Financial Review 11/4/98)

P&O pushing union

MUA leader John Coombs accused P&O, the nation's largest waterside employer, of taking advantage of the industrial turmoil, saying it was "absolutely unrealistic" to expect the union to negotiate after this week's sacking of 2100 of its members by Patrick stevedores. Evidently Hein has now told John Coombs that he wants a 50 per cent cut in labour costs. P&O is considering a range of options including changes to work practices, the outsourcing of some labour and, possibly, redundancies. John Coombs said the company had a reform proposal from the union before it and was yet to respond. "I really think they're trying to take advantage of the environment ... this is all an attempt to hustle me,"

P&O holds about 50 per cent of the stevedoring market, Patrick on 45 per cent and the remaining 5 per cent made up by other companies such as Sea Land in South Australia and Western Stevedores in Western Australia.

(Australian 11/4/98)

Details of the P&C Stevedores contract workers was disclosed in the Sydney Morning Herald. They are all on individual contracts known as Australian Workplace Agreements, with most earning about $46,000 a year for a 35-hour week. They are of varying ages but the overall profile is said to be "youthful". The average award rate for stevedores is around $30,000 for a 35 hour week. In big container terminals, wharfies earnt good wages by working up to 80 hours a week at all times of the day and night.

(Sydney Morning Herald 11/4/98)

Dismissed for being union

Many MUA members were dismissed irrespective of their work performance. The regional port of Burnie, in Tasmania, has an efficient record. On March 29 and 30 the Patrick gang at Burnie worked five shifts to unload and load containers on the Malaysian vessel Bunga Kenari, owned by the Malaysian International Shipping Corporation (MISC). They achieved an average rate of 34.8 containers an hour and the ship left Burnie six hours ahead of schedule.

Saltmarsh, a wharfie said "We were getting better all the time. About 18 months ago we only moved about 17 an hour. Lately we've been averaging 24 to 28."

At 11.30pm on Tuesday , strangers walked onto their wharf. "We're here to secure all Patrick's equipment," they said. "By whose authority?" Saltmarsh asked. "Patrick's management."

(Australian 11/4/98)

MUA election threat

The conspiracy by the Government has prompted this warning from the Maritime Union of Australia's (MUA) Terry Buck: "We're going to get out there, we're going to target marginal seats. We're going to make sure that every opportunity is provided for a destruction of this Government that's out there to destroy the working class people of Australia."

Maritime Union of Australia national secretary John Coombs has challenged the Prime Minister to call an election now to let the public judge the Government's actions in allowing the mass sacking of workers. "Let's forget about whatever other agenda he's got for his double-dissolution. Let him run an agenda, let him run an election on the basis of mass sacking of waterside workers,"

Meanwhile, the Opposition said the Prime Minister had undermined the job security of all trade union members and ultimately of all workers by backing the company's moves.

Bob McMullan, the ALP industrial relations spokesman, accused the Government of supporting action by Patrick that it knew was illegal or, at best, was designed to circumvent the law. Mr McMullan said Mr Howard's admission that "the efficient and co-operative work forces at places like Burnie (in Tasmania) and Townsville (in Queensland) were sacked because they were members of the MUA is an appalling indictment of the Government's partisan role in this dispute".

(Australian 11/4/98)


News Summary - Friday 10 April

Union Strategy - Blockade Patrick

After the slick corporate scheming and ruthless callousness of Corrigan, the ACTU and Maritime Union appear to have set in place a strategy to "starve the bastard". The Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) and ACTU strategy will attempt to starve Patricks of ships and cargo at its port terminals, while it pursues complex legal action through the courts. Already the ICFTU and ITF are calling on affiliates for international solidarity. Shippers are being warned not to berth at facilities operated by Patrick.

The MUA is ensuring that operations of Patrick's rivals, P&O Ports and SeaLand, ran smoothly following assurances it did not want to hire non-union wharfies. These employers will extract a price from the MUA, probably still to be determined.

The ACTU has decided to try and avoid massive fines from anti-strike and anti-union laws, and is focusing industrial and legal action against Patrick. Union lawyers are preparing to return to the Federal Court after a temporary injunction granted on Wednesday that was thought to stall the sackings was ignored by Patrick on the basis that it did not apply to relevant subsidiary companies employing labour. Many workers will not be happy with this circumspect strategy - as displayed by the Victorian Trades Hall call for an action day of protest.

John Coombs said he believed the longer the dispute with Patrick lasted, the more chance his union had of winning. "We intend to make sure Corrigan's got no business, got no ships, got no cargo moving over his ports, as a response to his callous dismissal of 1,400 workers of the last 24 and 48 hours. That's going to be our response, and to be honest with you I don't care if it takes a week, month or two months or three months."

The starvation strategy has dangers - big employers like Patrick nearly always have the upper hand in outlasting a union. The strategy tests the financial resilience of workers and the union movement. Equities analyst Julian Mulcahy, reported in the Financial Review, that a national shutdown of Patrick would cost Lang Corp $1 million a week pretax, or about $0.3 million on a cash flow basis. With gearing of around 100 per cent Lang is not in a particularly strong position.

(Source: Sydney Morning Herald 10 April, Financial Review 9 April)

From the Picket Line - 10 April

Sydney - picketers run over and maced
Late last night at Darling Harbour in Sydney at least 4 union members on the picket were hit by a minibus driven by a security guard and were carried some 20 metres. One was knocked unconscious and required hospitalisation. Police are also investigating a brawl at the Darling Harbour docks which has left three unionists and police officers injured when mace was used by a security guard (caught on video). The use of Mace is illegal in NSW. Cannisters of Mace were seen in a car used by Security Guards at Webb Dock in early February.

Darling Harbour is expected to be open for cargo delivery tomorrow using scab labor.

Yesterday Patrick chartered helicopters to airlift workers into Port Botany after the staff claimed they were pelted with bricks and stones. Also, Chris Corrigan claimed tug boats hosed down security and other contractors on the dock. About 24 workers were in place at Port Botany and Patrick hopes to begin stevedoring its first Sydney ship - an ANL container vessel - on Sunday.

Melbourne - train blockaded, ITF refused access to ships
10/4/98. Early this afternoon wharfies and their famillies have blockaded a train moving onto Patricks Appleton Dock by physically placing themselves on the tracks. A Mexican standoff ensued. The train has now pulled back, whether from union action or management decision.

Patrick's chairman, Mr Chris Corrigan, said 18 non-union employees were last night working on a German ship, the Contship London, which had arrived at Melbourne's East Swanson Dock yesterday afternoon. An ITF inspector, Mr Matt Purcell, was yesterday refused entry to Patrick's East Swanson dock in Melbourne to carry out what he called a "routine inspection". Matt Purcell says the refusal to allow a union inspection could affect shipping worldwide. "They can load what they like but it will just rot into the bottom of the sea. It won't be getting into affiliated countries throughout the world after this agressive and unnecessary action by Mr Tim Steel of Patrick's Melbourne."

The International Transport Workers Federation accused Patrick of "declaring war", after the company refused to allow a local representative on to the site.

The union claims seamen aboard the two ships berthed in Melbourne had been told only union members were operating the cranes and equipment.

The Victorian Trades Hall Council executive yesterday called a statewide day of action and rallies for 6 May, with a protest rally in Melbourne. Employers threatened to sue unions that held sympathy strikes in line with a Victorian Trades Hall Council call for every worker in the state to stop work for a day over the waterfront showdown. Mr Hubbard said unions expected to face legal action but would not be intimidated by "laws that we should not have in a civilised society". He said there was strong public support for the plight of the sacked waterfront workers and warned the State Government that it would lose votes for its support of Patrick. "While people may not hold waterfront workers to their hearts, they know that what we're fighting about is job security and every worker in this country is touched by job insecurity."

Brisbane - picket moved
10/4/98. Wharfies are being moved away from their protest site this morning. Wharfies at Hamilton have been confronting security guards from outside a recently-installed perimeter fence. Patrick is now reclaiming that protest site as a temporary carpark. The wharfies are to be moved to the other side of the wharf entrance road, where they will re-establish their picket.

Amid speculation he will call an early State election to capitalise on the dispute, the Queensland Premier, Mr Borbidge, said he commended the company for its "guts and determination".

The maritime union has said ships which Patrick has sub-contracted to the P&O company for handling will not be affected by industrial action. The union says it will only take action if non-union workers handle cargo. Up to three vessels are due at Port Adelaide over Easter. Forty Adelaide dock workers were sacked, along with Patrick's Adelaide manager Michael Barnett and a senior supervisor. The union claims Mr Burnett was sacked for refusing to follow the order to sack his workers, who are yet to receive their wages from the past week.

Fremantle - scabs finish loading MCS Singapore
Locked-out wharfies hurled insults at 30 contract workers engaged in unloading the MCS Singapore. A supervisor said they were unloading a dozen containers an hour - about half as many as P&O's union stevedoring facilities but the union estimates the rate was more like 4 containers an hour. The MCS Singapore has now sailed for Adelaide and Melbourne.

Other Ports - confrontation looms in Newcastle & Townsville
Corrigan announced that scab labour in Newcastle and Townsville, are ready to work on ships.

Politicians in Canberra -
"Honest" John Howard, Prime Minister, has denied he is on a crusade to destroy the Maritime Union of Australia or any other union. This is why he has backed Patrick "to the hilt", including Corrigan's asset stripping scam. (Please refer to Waterfront confrontation: right wing ideological background for some relevant links) Mr Howard refused to concede that some dock workers would be innocent victims of the Patrick purge. The desire to break the power of the wharfies has its roots back in the 1980s when the political and economic movement that became known as the New Right emerged. Breaking union power was a driving ambition. Check out the HR Nicholls Society Website, where Howard has given guest of honour speeches.

The Opposition Leader, Mr Kim Beazley, said if the government was not on an anti-union crusade, dock workers in Tasmania - who have exceeded the crane rates demanded by the Workplace Relations Minister, Mr Peter Reith - would not have been sacked. "Workers at Patrick's operations in Burnie, Tasmania had (moved) 33 containers per hour. Mr Reith's target was 25. They were routinely achieving 25. What is their reward? Sacked. Why? Because they are members of a union." Mr Beazley said the mass sacking showed that no worker was safe.

The bill for the $250 million line of credit to fund redundancies was rushed through the lower house of parliament on Wednesday. The unseemly haste and speed of presenting this bill by the Minister for Industrial Warfare shows that Reith has been conspiring against the union with Corrigan and the NFF for some time.

Howard guaranteed that this $250 million would not cost the tax payers any money but refused to say who would pay if the senate blocks the legislation. Labor, the Democrats and the Greens have signalled strong objections to the levy. "This tax adds costs to exporters and fuels a reckless Government's provocative action which could result in tying up billions of dollars of Australian exports." Senator Peter Cook, the Opposition's trade spokesman stated. The independent Senator Brian Harradine, who holds the balance of power in the upper house, also expressed concern.

While wharfies throughout Australia were being sacked in a military style operation, Howard, Reith and company were celebrating. From the Age:

"MIDNIGHT Wednesday. In the Senate President's courtyard at Parliament House, a champagne cork flies into the drought-clear cool of the Canberra night. The Aboriginal Affairs Minister, John Herron, and the Government Leader in the Senate, Robert Hill, accompanied by a knot of Government colleagues, raise a toast. Whatever they are celebrating, it is a potent symbol of how the Government is now thinking about itself."

The next day Howard and Reith could be seen gloating on the events of the night, while over two thousand people were wondering about how to survive after being unceremoniously dissmissed - just for belonging to a union.

(Source: ABC, Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, ABC Radio - 10 April)

International Solidarity spreading

Brussels April 8 1998 (ICFTU OnLine): In an online bulletin the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU) has called for international solidarity from unions worldwide and is alerting its Human and Trade Union Rights Committee to the situation. It is also writing to the Australian Government asking that it comply with its treaty obligations, and to respect the decision of the Court. It is being regularly updated by its Australian affiliate, the ACTU, on the situation.

The online bulletin also urges those people wishing to send a protest fax to the Australian government can do so by going to the Labourstart Website at: www.solinet.org/LEE/labourstart.html

In Holland, The biggest trade union has called on the biggest shipping company in Rotterdam not to use Patrick's terminals in Australia. The union, FNV, says the sacking of Patrick's workforce is an attack on the trade union movement in general. It has called upon P&O Nedlloyd, the Rotterdam-based shippping company, to divert its ships from Patrick terminals. FNV says it intends to inform dock workers in Rotterdam and Amsterdam of the events in Australia, and will discuss possible solidarity action against ships handled by Patrick from now on. A response from the company is not expected before next week.
ICFTU Bulletin

However, local shipping companies and shipping representatives appear to be backing the use of non-union labour on the wharves, saying that they have no other option. Liner Shipping Services, the main body representing 24 big shipping lines, said yesterday the international container trade could not be handled alone by Australia's other major stevedoring company, P&O Ports. Mr Llew Russell Liner Shipping Services chief executive officer, claimed lines with contracts with Patrick had little option other than to use that company, even if it involved non-union labor.

(Source: ICFTU Bulletin 8 April, The Age 10 April)

ACTU holds workers back for a legal attack

This afternoon, the ACTU executive met in Sydney. The executive has decided to pursue the legal course of defense, and issue special sustenance payments to the Patrick wharfies. The proposal by Leigh Hubbard from the Victorian Trades Hall for a national day of protest was rejected at this stage. The ACTU says the first priority are the familes and dependents of the sacked workers.

Meanwhile Victorian unions have endorsed a mass strike next month, which the Trades Hall Council expects will bring industries to a near halt. The unions have voted to hold a day of action on or about May 6, in support of waterfront workers and in protest against the Workplace Relations Act.

Victorian Trades Hall secretary Leigh Hubbard says the strike will be a test of the right to protest and he expects it will be well supported. "While people might not necessarily hold the wharfies to their hearts, they know that what they're fighting about is job security. And every worker in this country is touched by job insecurity at this stage and threats to their wages and conditions as a result of the Workplace Relations Act."

The Queensland Trades and Labour Council has ruled out secondary boycott action, at this stage. However, a meeting of 40 affiliated unions representing 300,000 Queensland unionists voted today to provide financial aid to the sacked workers. General secretary John Thompson said while some union members want to walk off the job, it is not the time for strike action.

"The days and times have changed, there are laws now. With secondary boycotts, unions can be fined up to $50 million now. We are not going to put ourselves out of business. We are going to win this dispute and we are going to win it with tactics we have never used before. And that's something Peter Reith has given us, we have become more inventive because of Peter Reith, if anything, we are not going to do what is expected of us."

Mr Thompson also rejected giving what Queensland Premier Rob Borbidge wants. "We need to not respond in the way we traditionally have. We need not to do what Peter Reith and Rob Borbidge would like us to do, there is nothing more that Rob Borbidge would like, say for transport and oil to stop over Easter."

The Federal Labor Opposition has also discouraged mass industrial action against Patrick Stevedores. With a federal election imminent, the Labor Party is playing cautious. Bob McMullan insist Patrick's decision to end the contracts of more than 2,000 full and part-time workers, is illegal. "What's alarming is the Government's trying to talk about some legal technicality by which it might be avoided and not addressing the core question. The court has said this appears to be illegal and the Government says: 'We don't care, we're going to continue to support it.' That's the key question."

ACTU & MUA meet with liquidators
After a meeting with the liquidators of the four Patrick labour companies, ACTU assistant secretary Greg Combet said there appears to have been a well-orchestrated scenario to deplete the labour companies of assets and engineer the dismissal of the Patrick workforce. "Unbeknownst to the union, about six months ago, it appears that a labour hire agreement was entered into which would be triggered when voluntary administrators were appointed. And that triggering would cause the termination of the workforce. So, it's all been a secretive corporate maneouvre to engineer the dismissal of the workforce and take assets out of the employing companies."

(Source: ABC 9 April)

ITF urges shipowners to avoid Patrick

The International Transport Workers Federation is urging ship owners to divert their cargoes from Australian ports operated by Patrick Stevedores. Kees Margess, the dockers secretary at ITF headquarters in London, said if shipping companies do not want industrial trouble, they should instruct vessels to avoid Patrick docks. Those that give a commitment not to use Patrick will have their names circulated on a list, but Mr Margess says companies which do not respond are risking trouble. "By informing them in advance, perhaps we can avoid further industrial problems in the different ports all over the world. It's better to avoid than to solve those kinds of problems."

It appears that some ship owners are taking the risk and offering up their ships to be stevedored by scabs at Patrick. The Contship London sailed into Melbourne this afternoon, and is expected to use Patrick scabs.

(Source: ABC 9 April)


News Summary - Thursday 9 April

Wharfies mass sackings to be challenged in court

The Financial Review has reported that senior industrial lawyers believe the case is strong that Chris Corrigan and Patrick has breached the law, with the Government's active support, by victimising stevedoring workers and "injuring them in their employment" because of their union membership and activity. The union is arguing that six months ago a labour hire agreement had been entered into with the National Farmers Federation, to be implemented once Patricks' workforce was dismissed. The manipulation of the circumstances was a conspiracy against the union and his employees.

Corrigan continues to maintain that he has not sacked anyone. He has simply refused to maintain financial support for these companies, despite having extracted like a leech $68.1 million from these companies last September, and possibly further asset stripping since then. Maritime Union Secretary described Chis Corrigan's movement of assets from the employing companies upstream to Lang Corporation as "a Christopher Skase style of operation". The orders to invade the wharves with security guards and attack dogs in a military style action also would contradict that Corrigan had not sacked anyone. Many of the security guards told workers at work - "Your Sacked" before physically escorting them to the terminal gates. A court or tribunal could very well find Corrigan's tactic was contrived and is in effect an attempt to dismiss an entire workforce.

Under the Workplace Relations Act freedom of association provisions employers are prevented from dismissing an employee, injuring an employee in his or her employment or altering the position of an employee to their detriment for prohibited reasons, including union membership, refusal to make or consent to an enterprise agreement to which the employee's union would be party, or because the worker is entitled to benefits under an industrial instrument, such as an award.

An employer is not allowed to dismiss a worker for engaging in lawful industrial action under the Act's enterprise bargaining provisions. The onus is on the employer to prove that it has not breached these laws. Such a breach need not be a major factor in the dismissal, it could be quite minor, to make it illegal.

Peter Reith, on the ABC 7.30 Report, stated that the government had top legal teams on standbye in Australia and in Britain to counter any threat from the International Transport Federation, or secondary boycotts within Australia. The government has an open cheque book policy for its legal costs - "to spend any amount necessary." The Labor Opposition spokesman has condemned this open cheque book policy on legal costs, when education, health issues, and unemployment are such pressing issues of concern to all Australians.

Meanwhile, The maritme union's lawyers are drawing up writs against Corrigan, Patrick, Donald McGauchie for the NFF, and Peter Reith. Peter Reith's active incitement of Patrick and Corrigan, it will be argued, has breached the contract of employment and his own Workplace Relations Act. Lawyers for the MUA and the ACTU are also seeking contempt chages for the loading of a vessel in Fremantle while an injunction is in place. The union could also have a case to argue on common law grounds.

The Chanticleer column in the Financial Review has advice that "there is enough in the common law on this issue for the MUA to tie Lang up in the courts, all the way to the High Court, for years." As Chris Corrigan has said - this is a strike of capital. The difference is Corrigan isn't moving his capital to another location - it is a discriminatory strike of capital, imposed on workers who are members of a union.

More Scabs on the waterfont

11.00am 9/4/98. About 24 scabs have been ferried by launch to the Port Botany terminal in Sydney. It appears they are being shown the layout of the site.

1.00pm 9/4/98. At Hamilton Wharf in Brisbane scabs were ferried in to the wharf where they started moving some refrigerated perishable containers. Containers were delivered to the wharf by truck. After a short time work stopped and the containers were driven of for storage.

4.00pm 9/4/98 There were plans to bring non-union workers to Port Kembla, near Woollongong today. However, the ship sailed, rather than be delayed by waiting for scab labour to arrive, and disrupt its schedule

4.00pm 9/4/98. A ship has docked at Webb dock wher it has picked up scab labour from P&C Stevedores, then continued onto East Swanson Dock.

Non union workers are expected to be shown onto the wharves throughout Australia over the next few days.

(Source: ABC Radio 9 April)

Statistics, damn statistics and Peter Reith

Andy Andrews, the head of SeaLand, has blasted Peter Reith for his derogatory comments made against SeaLand on the ABC 7.30 report. SeaLand runs a container terminal in Adelaide, South Australia. Peter Reith dismissed SeaLand's productivity as "not such a big deal." Andy Andrews decried the much vaunted statistics being peddled by Reith and Corrigan as seldom giving an accurate report of the work involved in container movements.

On two ships recently in Adelaide he described how container movements on one were 16 per hour, and on an adjacent ship were 28 an hour, definitely close to world's best practice. However, average container movements tend to distort the effort reguired. A poor statistic for a ship may result from the way the containers are presented, and the way they are stowed on a ship. When he contacted a shipping company to try and resolve some of the problems - to reform container stowage to improve container movement rate, he was told that "Adelaide stowage was an afterthought." This claim has been made before - that because of Australia's trade volume and geographical position, the logistics of accessing containers will fluctuate wildly from ship to ship.

Any statistician will advise that averages are always deceptive. A bit like a river in flood, where 95% of the width may only be ankle deep and slow flowing, while the 5% remaining is treacherously deep and fast flowing. Based on average depth and speed the river appears safe to cross. The average figures which Corrigan and Reith have been peddling do not tell the true story. To do that, you need to understand the work effort involved in the stowage and movement of containers perculiar to our own geographical position. I doubt Reith or Corrigan have found the time to get their hands dirty and understand the logistics involved which wharfies face every day.

Corrigan dismisses South Australian Manager

1.00pm 9/4/98. Michael Bennett, the South Australian Manager of Patrick, and Terry McKinnon, a senior supervisor, have been dismissed. It is thought the dismissal is because they refused to follow a head office directive to sack Patrick's Adelaide employees, and were instantly dismissed themselves. Patrick has appointed an ex P&O employee to take over as South Australian Manager. It has announced that all present and future shipments will be contracted out to P&O Ports in Adelaide.

While Corrigan has expressed some remorse for the sacking of workers at productive regional wharves, his actions speak far louder. In an act of ruthless corporate bastardry his mass dismissals have discriminated against people who have done nothing except belong to a union. Even some of his managers see his action as grossly discriminatory, and have acted in the interests of their fellow employees.

ABC Radio 9/4/98)

San Fransisco Protest

2.00pm 9/4/98 In San Fransisco unionists in the International Longshoreman's Union protested to consular officials in the Australian Consulate, then blockaded the consulate building. It was reported that police were called and several people were arrested.

Japan's waterfont unions have expressed solidarity with the Maritime Union of Australia. An Industrial dispute is presently occurring on the Japanese waterfront.

ABC Radio 9/4/98)

Scabs unloading MSC Singapore in Fremantle

Scabs from P&C Stevedores are unloading containers at Fremantle, in contravention of a Federal Court injunction. Under the injunction, the administrators appointed by Patrick must not dismiss any employees, must not divulge any assets, and must not employ any others to do stevedoring work.

(Source: ABC 8 April)

A comment on Corrigan's money manipulations

Corrigan has setup the situation whereby the companies employing staff are cash starved. This is as a result of moving $68.1 million out of these companies in September 1997 (Are wharfies about to be swindled out of millions?), just as the Dubai debacle was being organised. This was done purposefully (see More on Patrick swindling wharfies) for just the present instance.

The legality and propriety of this transfer should be questioned. It smells of conspiracy - part of the conspiracy that has been hatching for at least the last 6 months. Corrigan has done the dirty on all the employees in the Patrick group of companies - some 2,100 staff (of which only 1,400 are wharfies). The companies which employed people have all been put into liquidation, while the parent company, Lang Corporation absolves itself of all responsibility, and Lang Shares jump in value. Corrigan has setup other companies to handle the wharf assets and the contracting out of services, including the sourcing of scab labour from P&C Stevedores.

The callousness of Corrigan is obvious, and his business ethics must be severely questioned. Reith talks of waterfront reform, while Corrigan cannot even manage Patricks efficiently. Sea-land general manager Andy Andrews recently accused Patrick of blaming the union as a smokescreen for Patricks' own poor management. This corroborates statements of former Patrick line manager, Alan Knight. Corrigan stands accused of betrayal and poor management by his own employees and peers.

(Takver 9 April)


News Summary - Wednesday 8 April

Federal Court grants Union injunction - sackings may be illegal

8.00pm 8 April 1998. A Judge on the Federal Court has granted a seven day injunction to the Maritime Union against the mass sacking of 1400 wharfies by Patrick Stevedoring. He found that the union had a case that the sacking of workers may be illegal. He found that administrators appointed to run the Patrick group of companies appeared to be "no more than puppets".

In Fremantle scabs been sighted at Patricks terminal. There continued presence would now be in contravention of the Federal Court injunction.

Channel 10 TV News, ABC TV News

Workers sacked - just for being a union member

The industrial action over the last 2 months at Patricks has only occurred intermittently at Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane. Yet the mass sackings has affected 1400 workers at 17 wharfs across Australia. Many of these workers have not been engaged in any industrial action, and the Maritime Union has had a long standing policy of exempting regional ports from major disputes.

The WA Labor Opposition says all West Australian workers should be horrified at Patrick's action. Labor's Transport spokeswoman, Alannah McTiernan, says it is not just waterside workers who should be worried about their jobs. "If an employer can just come in, without there being any local dispute at all, and sack all their employees and say: 'we want to sack you because we're going to replace you with people on workplace agreements', I mean that has amazing ramifications for every worker in Western Australia. It could happen in any sector. It could happen in hospitals. The Government could come in and sack every nurse and say we're not happy with your performance, we're going to sack you and we're going to replace you with people on workplace agreements. It could happen in the retail sector, hospitality, and of course in the mining area."

NSW State Pemier, Bob Carr, in state parliament also condemned the actions of Patrick and the Federal Government for conspiring against maritime workers.

In many small wharfs like below, where workers had taken no industrial action, they woke up to be informed by the morning news that they had been sacked.

Newcastle, NSW
Like thieves in the night security guards with attack dogs occupied Patrick terminal in Newcastle, displacing 70 local maritime workers. Wharfies have set up a picket at the gates similar to the gatherings at wharfs throughout Australia.

Port Adelaide, South Australia
40 maritime workers have been sacked. Rick Newlyn, the state secretary of the maritime union, said "We do a lot of day-to-day work that doesn't involve shipping, in preparations for ships, and that's what is happening to us today. We've got car boats tonight and tomorrow and I don't know how they're going to be loaded, and I don't know by who. But we're going to be having meetings this morning."

Townsville, Queensland
More than 20 workers were ordered off the dock. Graham Bragg from the maritime union says they were caught by surprise. "Our members were unloading some fertiliser at the number eight shed at the Townsville Wharf when up to 30 security people came there with dogs and guns and ordered these people off the premises. Previously in the night, our members worked the afternon shift without any problems and I rang the manager and he knew nothing about it."

Burnie, Tasmania
A standoff situation insued with security guards refusing workers access to loading machinery. Union leader Col Griffiths says the partially loaded cargo vessel Botany Bay may have to be unloaded. "When it finishes here it's going to Patrick's [dock] in Melbourne. There's no labor there. There's no work going on there so they're stuck and I've just been informed they've got a number of horses, of livestock and a number of freezer containers that have not been plugged in yet."

Fremantle, Western Australia
About 100 workers have been sacked. Security guards were taken to the wharves by boat, then took control of the site at about 10 o'clock last night. A "peaceful assembly" picket has been set up outside the gates of the Patrick terminal.

Brisbane - P&O employees & tanker crew denied access to workplaces
70 P&O employees from the Conaust wharves have been stopped from getting to work this morning by security guards employed by Patrick. Mick Carr from the MUA says the workers were refused entry to Fisherman Island - controlled by the Port of Brisbane Authority - to carry out their lawful work. "There's also four crew members of the Seamar Spirit - that's an Australian tanker on Port Authority land - and they've refused repeatedly to allow crew members who are part of our union to join that ship."

ABC online news reports 8 April


News Summary - Wednesday 8 April

1400 wharfies sacked in midnight raids

Just before midnight last night (Tuesday) Patricks moved extra security guards and security dogs onto their wharves in Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne and Fremantle. The ABC announced at 11.47pm on its website that "Federal Government says Patrick Stevedores has sacked its workforce, and will replace current waterside workers with new contractors." Patrick issued a media release shortly after 11pm which stated that it had decided to contract out its stevedoring activities due to the "continued failure of the Maritime Union of Australia to negotiate acceptable work practices". This action was brought forward as the MUA had started urgent court proceedings for an injunction to prevent Patrick from sacking its workforce.

1400 workers at Patricks 17 terminals around Australia have been locked out and given the sack. This was done with the full collusion of the government. Peter Reith, the Minister for Industrial Warfare has promised "a line of credit up to $250 million is available" for Patrick to use for termination payments. Patricks has announced that most of its operations will be outsourced. The NFF backed anti-union operation, P&C Stevedores will be a primary source of contract labour for Patricks.

The Government aid to Patrick is in stark contrast to the treatment of miners at Cobar and Woodlawn who the government refused to help when they were made redundant and denied their employee entitlements, while the banks got paid.

Union Response to outrageous sackings

The Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) says it is not considering violent confrontation on the waterfront, despite Patrick Stevedores' action. The union's assistant national secretary, Mr Vic Slater, said the "outrageous action" proved the union's long-held belief that there was a conspiracy between Patrick, the Federal Government and the National Farmers Federation to destroy the union. "This company has broken every rule in the industrial relations book and in doing so is jeopardising the livelihood of thousands of workers and their families at the behest of the Government."

The CFMEU has called for a 48 hour strike. The Australian Workers Union is ready to shut down the oil industry if asked for by the Maritime Union or the ACTU.


At East Swanson Dock in Melbourne 27 wharfies are locked inside despite attempts by security guards to remove them. "We can't get out. They've secured the whole place," one worker told The Age by telephone. "The boys aren't happy. It's like World War Three down here." Terry Russell from the MUA is adament they will remain inside the dockyard unless they are forcibly removed. At least one wharfie had been injured in the attempt to secure the dock. "There's dogs running around everywhere with people. One of our members has been bitten by a dog and he's in a serious way - this is an absolute disgrace." MUA organiser Mick Cottrell said.

10am - Thousands of Construction workers have walked off construction sites in Melbourne in protest at the sackings, and a rally is being staged in support of the wharfies.


The union says up to 50 security guards with dogs, backed by about a dozen police, removed union members from Patrick's Fisherman Island container terminal in Brisbane. Col Davies from the South Queensland branch of the MUA has complained to police about an alleged savage assault on one union member by security guards man-handling him off the site. Union officials were allowed on site, escorted by police, to check on the safety of union members. Mr Davies said "It's time for people to rally together and realise that both this State Government and the Federal Government must only be one-term Governments for the good of everyone in Australia. It's a real fascist exercise what's going on here tonight, a really fascist, undemocratic, un-Australian exercise."


In the Western Australian Port of Fremantle, 50 Patricks' workers spent two-and-a-half hours locked in an amenities building after security guards took control of the premises. After requests from police, the workers left peacefully and are maintaining a vigil outside the terminal's main gates. Tony Papaconstantinos for the MUA says the union will not tolerate militant actions of Patrick Stevedores.


Security guards and dogs were ferried in two boats to Patricks terminal at Port Botany last night.

10am Wednesday - 4000 unionists are rallying in Sydney and will march to Darling Harbour to join picketing Maritime Union members outside Patrick's No 5 darling harbour terminal. The rally includes members from the Construction Forestry Mining Engineering Union (CFMEU) , Teachers Federation and Nurses Union.

ACTU response

The ACTU has condemned the sacking as a gross act of collusion between Patrick, the Government, and the National Farmers Federation. The ACTU is meeting today to draw up a considered response from the trade union movement.

International Transport Workers Federation

In a swift reaction the ITF general secretary David Cockroft has condemned the sackings as outrageous. He stated that the federation will be contacting all its affiliates to urge them to take what action they can against Patrick. Patrick's decision to use non union contract labour in its Australian operations makes the company a direct target and ships and shipowners using the firm could also suffer. "We don't believe that those new jobs will have any long-term future." Speaking out against the contracting out to non union labour "Our unions around the world are not going to stand by and watch that happen because it's quite clear that if it can happen in Australia, it can happen anywhere. So, Patrick is a target and any company that uses Patrick's facilities is potentially a target as far as the ITF is concerned."

Labor Party accuses Government of conspiracy

In federal parliament the Federal Labor Opposition Leader, Kim Beazley, has condemned the sackings as illegal, and accused the government of a conspiracy against the Maritime Union.

Minister for Industrial Warfare, Peter Reith commented earlier that "This is a decisive turning point in the history of reform on the Australian waterfront and gives Australia the opportunity to have a waterfront which will allow us to compete against the best in the world."

Reith has outlined this morning that the financial assistance to Patrick will be met by long term levies - $12 on every container shipped and $6 on every car shipped.

Meanwhile, in a frenzy of greed, shares in Lang Corporation, Patricks parent company, have surged 15% on the Australian Stock exchange.

(Source: ABC April 8, Sydney Morning Herald April 8, The Age April 8, ABC Radio reports April 8)

If you wish to contact Patrick Management to tell them what you think of these sackings, contact details are available from their webpage at http://www.patrick.com.au/


News Summary - Monday 6 April

Wharfies strike in Sydney

Early Sunday morning over 300 wharfies and their supporters gathered at their main Brisbane picket line in anticipation of an early morning raid. About 50 wharfies and their families had kept a vigil overnight outside the Fisherman Island terminal in Brisbane. Maritime union members are expecting a move by Patrick to sack their workers, and bring in security guards with dogs to patrol the terminal, and hire scab labour from the NFF backed P&C Stevedores training operation at Webb Dock.

Striking Patrick workers in Brisbane returned to work on Monday, however the union is maintaining a 'peaceful assembly' picket line. The picketing wharfies have been told to move their protest from the gates of Patrick Stevedores at the Port of Brisbane, so the tents and banners of the picket have moved a short way down the road from the company.

On sunday Queensland State Premier Rob Borbidge held private talks with Donald McGauchie, president of the NFF and chairman of P&C Stevedores, about the establishment of a non-union stevedoring operation in Brisbane. The State Treasurer, Joan Sheldon, and Industrial Relations Minister, Santo Santoro were present during the talks. During monday Joan Sheldon ruled out giving the National Farmers Federation (NFF) financial help, however Santo Santoro has already offered "to help them in whatever way possible".

From Tuesday, Patrick workers in Sydney will strike for 7 days to apply further pressure on Patrick. Patrick has the option of applying to the Industrial Relations Commisssion to end the bargaining period. However, to do this they must prove the strikes have caused significant damage to the economy. This argument was knocked on the head by Federal Minister for Industry and Science, Mr Moore, when he told Channel 9's Sunday program that the damage caused to Australia's industry so far was "marginal".

The Maritime Union in its fights for an equitable enterprise agreement with Patricks, and against the setting up of a non-union stevedoring operation, is receiving strong support from the whole trade union movement and the peak union body, the ACTU. During a visit to coal miners in Central Queensland on Sunday, ACTU president Jennie George said "There is a committment in the Union movement to make sure that the families of the maritime workers are looked after, and their children. Workers, when they see others under attack, dig deep in their pockets. They're good people and they respect those like the waterside workers and the mine workers, who stand up for principle against the might of very big multi-national corporations."

The ACTU has played down widening the dispute beyond Patricks to avoid crippling financial sanctions for secondary boycotts under the Trade Practices Act and Workplace Relations Act. Also to prevent widespread industrial confrontation which could prejudice the Australian Labor Party in the upcoming federal election.

(Source: ABC 5-6 April, Sydney Morning Herald 6 April)

Other News

Thousands march against uranium mine in Kakadu

On Sunday thousands of people in cities across Australia marched in opposition to the proposed Jabiluka uranium mine proposed by Energy Resources Australia in Kakadu National Park. Kakadu has a world heritage listing. A protest blockade of the mine site has started, with the support of the traditional land owners, the Mirrar people.

Tasmanian Greens Senator, Bob Brown, accused the Howard Government of selling out the native people. In the Northern Territory, the Mirrar people who are the traditional owners of the Jabiluka region have already been sold out. The Government and Environment Minister [Senator Hill] said 18 months ago they would not trample over the interests of the indigenous people, but they've done just that."

Bob Brown warned that the campaign against Jabiluka would be much bigger than the successful Franklin Dam campaign in 1982-83. We're headed for a showdown over the Jabiluka valley, which is one of the most magnificent, beautiful places in Kakadu and in the world. It's going to have the world's second largest uranium mine underground with an ugly road scarring the whole length of the valley ... Australians are not going to like that. Having coming through the Franklin campaign where there were 6,000 who went to the blockade, 1,500 arrested, 500 jailed, I think this is going to be bigger. I don't say that lightly. I've never said that about any environmental issue since the Franklin but that's how I see this one."

(Source: ABC April 5, Sydney Morning Herald April 6)


News Summary - Saturday 4 April

Threat to use scabs and lockout Brisbane wharfies

Fears of a lockout and sackings of workers at Patrick intensified today. The MUA has accused Patrick of intending to sack its entire Brisbane workforce over the weekend and bring in scabs from the NFF operation at Webb Dock. The Age newspaper today reported that P&C Stevedores at Webb Dock has a 200 strong workforce fully trained and ready to be deployed at short notice.

Mr Mike Higginbottom, P&C Stevedores operations manager at Webb Dock, stated that employees had reached a training level where they could be transferred immediately to replace an existing workforce. While acknowledging the employees have no operational experience he said the trainees would require "less than a few weeks" of operational experience to be able to work as efficiently as members of the Maritime Union of Australia. The Age asked if the trainees could be moved in at short notice in Brisbane or Sydney, he said: "Yes, given that there was some proper controls over their familiarisation with the operation there. What is the big deal? If someone wants to employ these people, most of whom are unemployed, and they are willing to work under an AWA (individual contract), I can see no difficulty with them doing that."

MUA members in Brisbane met on Friday to discuss the dispute. Southern Queensland MUA Secretary Mick Carr said of the meeting "A very strong resolution came out in support of our national secretary so much that we unaminously endorsed the report-back on a pledge of 100 per cent support to the strategies brought to date and for our strategies for the future to try get this dispute resolved."

The MUA members in Brisbane will now try to return to work a day early, but workers at Patrick's in Sydney will strike for seven days from Tuesday. National Secretary John Coombs accused Patrick's of failing to engage in meaningful negotiations. "They've just hardened their opposition. They've got no intention of reaching agreement with us so we're going to apply some more pressure by continuing some protected action in Sydney."
(Source: ABC 3-4 April, The Age 4 April)


News Summary - Friday 3 April

Wharfies reject greed for maintaining conditions

Wharfies on Friday rejected a 6 percent payrise by Patrick, arguing that conditions need to be transferred from the award to the Enterprise Agreement. Under the Workplace Relations act all industrial awards will be reduced to 20 allowable conditions. Conditions outside of those "allowable" need to be negotiated directly with employers. Unions, such as the Maritime Union, are arguing strongly that conditions not allowable in the award should be part of enterprise agreements. Without this guarantee workers will lose social conditions which have been hard fought for by previous generations of unionists.

Mr Vic Slater, MUA assistant secretary said It's no good offering us a 6 percent rise with one hand and taking away our award claims with the other. ... They (Patrick) don't mention stripping back our award conditions. What this company is really seeking is to sharpen the conflict with the union and sack the workforce."

In other news, a meeting of the ACTU in Melbourne on Friday played down the threats of industrial action widening. Greg Combet from the ACTU stated "The industrial issue as it is today is that the ACTU is not in dispute with P&O Ports, shipping companies, or with the oil companies. I can only reiterate the industrial issue is with Patrick.

In the present scenario, the Government is trying to provoke major industrial confrontation to use as an electoral issue in an upcoming election this year. The ACTU is trying to moderate and control the dispute on behalf of maximising the Labor Party's electoral chances. Ultimately, John Coombs is there to represent his members, and if his members lose their jobs, he has no alternative but to fight with every working class means at his disposal, including the solidarity action of other unions in a political protest against the Federal Government.
(Takver, Sydney Morning Herald - April 4)

WA Minister invites NFF to Fremantle

Western Australian Transport Minister Eric Charlton has invited the National Farmers Federation (NFF) to setup in Fremantle. Mr Charlton is about to grant wharf monopoly rights to a company in Dampier, and do away with the firm which has functioned successfully there for 20 years. State Labor Opposition Transport spokeswoman, Allanah MacTiernan, said Mr Charlton is purely and simply a union basher. "He is out there competing for the Peter Reith elephant stamp for having done the most towards destroying any sort of union organisation on the waterfront."
(ABC - April 3)

Brisbane strikers picket Patrick

In pouring rain, striking waterside workers are continuing a picket outside the two headquarters of Patrick Stevedores in Brisbane. It is thought 60-70 people are being trained at Webb Dock at the moment for a Brisbane scab operation, which will start in the next few weeks.

The Maritime Union of Australia's (MUA's) assistant national secretary, Vic Slater, has alleged the move by P&C Stevedores to Brisbane is to drum up industrial confrontation on the eve of the state election: "I'm saying Brisbane is a very reliable port and the NFF are part and parcel of trying to create chaos on the eve of a State election"

Queensland Industrial Relations Minister, Mr Santoro, said that any assistance to the NFF will be forthcoming. "The Queensland Government is certainly very keen to help them in whatever way possible. There will be further discussions, and details of any assistance may be announced as we work our way through."

The ACTU, through John Thompson, said the Maritime Union can expect widespread union support for its four-day strike. "Not only can they expect it, but they'll certainly get it from all of the unions affiliated with us."
(ABC - April 3)

Coombs vows to fight sackings

On ABC TV's 7.30 Report the Maritme union's national secretary, Mr John Coombs, vowed he was prepared to make "the ultimate protest" and warned it would be a long and dirty fight. "Do you really expect that I'm just going to stand on the side lines and see the members of the union thrown out of work and replaced by scabs and serving army personnel, do you really think that I'm such a wimp?"

Mr Coombs said it was clear Patrick planned to go into voluntary liquidation to get rid of the unionised workers. He did not rule out action on all ports, against all stevedoring companies.

Also on the program, Sam Wood, acting national secretary of the Australian Workers Union, reiterated his union's willingness to close down the oil industry in Australia if mass redundancies or sackings of wharfies occurrs with the assistance of the Government. He said the union had legal advice that because its action was politically motivated against the actions of the government it could escape bans in the Trade Practices Act against third parties involving themselves in a dispute.

Professor Allan Fels of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission said it was "not at all obvious" that political protest would be a defence against breaches of the act and threatened the union that it was likely to be in breach of the Act and the commission would "seriously consider taking legal action".

Minister of Industrial Warfare, Peter Reith, and Prime Minister, "Honest" John Howard, were frothing with glee at the prospect of major industrial conflict which they have inflamed. They are eager to test the ban on secondary boycotts in a bid to financially cripple the union movement. Mr Howard told Melbourne radio station 3AW "I hope they don't do it. I hope they're sensible and recognise the Australian people would react in a very hostile fashion to that. The Australian people will not have a bar of these secondary boycotts."
(ABC-TV 7.30 Report - April 2, ABC April 3)

SeaLand to open in Brisbane with MUA employees

Sealand is scheduled to begin operations in Brisbane from July 1, breaking the duopoly of Patrick and P&O Ports. Captain Andy Andrews, general manager of Sea-Land, said an agreement with the MUA was "pretty well done". The consultative approach to management and industrial relations of Sea-Land is in sharp contrast to the feudal management style of Patrick.
(Australian Financial Review - April 3)

Maritime Union Deal with Ship Owners

The Financial Review reported that ship owners have struck a sweeping industry reform deal with the Maritime Union of Australia that will deliver major labour cost savings designed to close the competitive gap between Australian and foreign- flagged ships.

The proposed deal is said to be the biggest shake-up in employment arrangements in Australian shipping in three decades. The MUA is expected to accept 300 redundancies from the 2,400 strong maritime workforce. There also appears to be an agreement to replace the shipping industry's labour-pooling system for seafarers with enterprise-based employment from July 1, allowing ship owners to select their own workers for the first time since the mid-1960s. Other labour reforms have been agreed, including reductions in the crew-to-berth ratio and other savings in labour costs.

If the deal is sealed as is expected, the shipping employers and unions will present a united front to the Federal Government in seeking a series of tax breaks worth about $48 million a year.

The MUA's national secretary, Mr John Coombs, said there were minor details to be finalised but he expected the package would win the backing of rank-and-file membership. "I've been involved in a lot of agreements over a long time, but nothing compares with what is available under this agreement for the shipowners to encourage them to invest and expand their interests."

"Peter Reith and John Howard continue to slander this union, but my experience with the membership is they understand what is at stake, the level of competition we are trying to compete against, and they have made an enormous contribution to try and save this industry. The real question is whether the Government is going to view our contribution as sufficient to warrant the fiscal assistance which is crucial if Australian-flagged vessels are to stay afloat against the diabolical competition from the flag of convenience ships of shame."
(Australian Financial Review - April 3)

Wharfies raise safety concerns over nuclear waste

Port Botany workers walked off the mid-night shift on Thursday night over safety concerns and lack of consultation surrounding the export of spent nuclear fuel rods at P&O Ports CTAL terminal in Sydney.

Assistant National Secretary Vic Slater said the company had bypassed the consultative process in the enterprise agreement, the award and under common law duty of care obligations, ordering the labour to load the three containers of nuclear waste onto the MV Arneb.

"We were given little warning of what was happening," he said. "It was all at short notice, under cover of dark, presumably to avoid protests by environmental groups."

Mr Slater said that instead of sitting down and alleviating the workers' fears over safety and environmental factors, management went to the Industrial Relations Commission, ordering our members to work the vessel."

When the delegate on the job and the portainer crane operator refused to load the containers, the company then threatened them with dismissal. At this point all labour walked off the job. After leaving the site the containers of nuclear waste were driven onto the roll on roll off vessel.
(Maritime Union Media Release - April 3)

Other news:

Workers win as Simplot lockout ends at Echuca

Workers locked out of a food processing factory at Echuca for five weeks are to return to work victorious. The multinational food processing company, Simplot, agreed not to outsource the workforce over the life of a new 16 month enterprise agreement. A 3 percent pay rise was also achieved.

This webpage was part of a consumer campaign to pressure Simplot to agree to the workers demands.
(Australian Financial Review - April 3)

Jailing and Disappearances of Indonesion Democracy Advocates

According to Amnesty International, 300 democracy activists/ advocates in Indonesia have been arrested or disappeared since January 1998.

On March 13, Aan Rusdianto, Mugianto and Nesar Patria who are all leading activists in the banned People's Democratic Party (PRD) were arrested when their house in East Jakarta was raided by the military. It is believed that they were subjected to torture including electric shocks and beatings before being 'officially processed'. However, their whereabouts are unknown.

Similary, Andi Arief, chairperson of SMID (Students' Solidarity with Democracy in Indonesia) and a leading PRD member was kidnapped on 28 March in Lampung, South Sumatra. He has not been seen since. Amnesty International have adopted Andi Arief as one of their urgent appeal cases.

Protest in Melbourne
Wednesday 8 April at 4 pm
Outside Indonesian Consulate
72 Queens Rd (near Albert Park lake)

Organised by Action in Solidarity with Indonesia and East Timor (ASIET)
(Source: Leftlink)



News Summary - Thursday 2 April

AWU threatens action if wharfies dismissed

The Australian Workers' Union (AWU) - with members in about 80 per cent of the country's refineries, including the Caltex Ampol refinery at Kurnell - threatened to shut down the oil industry if Patrick sacked its workers.
(Sydney Morning Herald - April 2)

Prime Minister backs Patrick 'to the hilt'

In Parliament on Tuesday, Prime Minister John Howard refused to be drawn in on allegations that Patrick chairman Chris Corrigan plans to sack the company's workforce, but has given his full support to Patrick. "Let me make my attitude to Mr Corrigan very clear, my attitude to the National Farmers Federation very clear. We will support to the hilt their efforts within the law to provide competition on the Australian waterfront. Within the law, we will support their efforts."

The Opposition spokesman on industrial relations, Mr Bob McMullan, asked Mr Howard to condemn Mr Corrigan for claims on ABC radio that in 1994 he had proposed stripping assets from the company so there would be no money for workers if they lost their jobs - the "so-called Cobar option".
(Source: ABC, Sydney Morning Herald - April 1)

More on Patrick swindling wharfies

Captain Jim Sweetenson. Former Manageing Director of Australian Stevedores, predecessor to Patrick Stevedores, claimed that a plan to shift assets out of employing companies in the group had been considered in 1994 during a dispute at Darling Harbour in Sydney. Captain Sweetenson told ABC radio AM program that the plan had been put to the board by its chairman, Chris Corrigan. The proposal was "that we then transfer the assets out of the company that employed the labour and owned the assets, so that would just leave the labour in a company on its own. ... The reason ... was that if ever we had to take drastic action at Darling Harbour - terminate all the employees - that there would be no assets there ... that would be able to be realised to pay redundancies..."
(Source: Australian Financial Review - April 1)

Cobar Miners angry at Government for Double Standards

The union representing the Cobar miners owed almost $10 million in back pay and entitlements has savaged the Federal Government for its decision to consider offering assistance to waterfront workers in the event of mass redundancies.

Cobar miners abandoned their homes after the town's biggest employer, the CSA copper mine, went bust after its owner ran into financial trouble, waterfront workers could look forward to handsome payouts, the Shearers and Rural Workers Union secretary, Mr Stephen Roach, said. "It's a cruel irony and it gives a clear picture of what they [the Government] are about ... And that's nothing to do with justice and everything to do with the macho agenda they are running."

Accusing the Government of "gross hypocrisy", the union is threatening to picket the waterfront in protest.
(Source: Sydney Morning Herald April 1)

Patrick refuses to rule out mass sacking

In a hearing in Melbourne before the Industrial Relations Commission, Patrick's lawyer, Mr Frank Parry, told the commission the company could give no undertaking about employment, "nor should they be required to". The lawyer for the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA), Mr Robert Hinkley, said the union had sufficient evidence to believe Patrick's chief executive, Mr Chris Corrigan, planned to dismiss the workforce. Commissioner Mr Keith Mahon adjourned the hearing.

Later the MUA's national secretary, Mr John Coombs, claimed the Federal Government had decided to fund Patrick wharfies' redundancies on Monday. "I know that Cabinet took a decision to fund the redundancies on Monday morning. I've got information to that effect. Until someone comes up with another strategy as to why millions of dollars being spent training up an alternative workforce to replace the existing Patrick workforce, I'll settle for that strategy, thanks."

In Parliament the Minister for Industrial Warfare, Mr Reith, when questioned about redundancy payments, said the Government would provide a "mechanism" to help the industry but refused to say what this might be.
(Source: Sydney Morning Herald - April 2)

NFF feels out Australian Workers Union

The Australian Workers Union (AWU) claimed it had rejected repeated requests from an intermediary from the farmers' backed stevedore company, Producers & Consumers Stevedores (PCS), to mount a takeover of the waterfront from the MUA. The union's acting national secretary, Mr Sam Wood, said an intermediary from the National Farmers' Federation had approached the AWU three times since the farmers launched their stevedoring venture at Melbourne's Webb Dock in January. Mr Wood said "It was a person who talked to a person, so they wanted to keep it distant. But we said we weren't interested ... in knocking off membership. That would be suicidal."

Mr Paul Houlihan, a director of PCS, denied any approaches had been made.
(Sydney Morning Herald - April 2)

Brisbane out as Sydney wharfies return to work

Negotiations between the MUA and Patricks have not achieved an outcome, Brisbane wharfies are proceeding on a 4 day strike from Friday. Col Davies, Brisbane branch secretary of the MUA, says while the talks were meaningful, the MUA was not going to cave in. "What do we do? Do we roll over and give up all the conditions that have been hard fought for many years and go back to third world rates of pay? No way, we can't do that ... this is not about the NFF. It is purely and simply about Patrick's not agreeing to maintain those conditions that we now enjoy"

After 14 days without pay, wharfies at Port Botany have voted to go back to work after a seven day strike, and decided to lift overtime bans. They have received no pay for the last fortnight.
(ABC - April 1)

Queensland Minister to meet NFF

Queensland Industrial Relations Minister Santo Santoro will hold talks with National Farmers Federation (NFF) officials today about plans for a non-unionised dock.
(ABC - April 2)

Other news:

"Honest" John Howard breaches own guidelines

Before the Liberal National Party coalition won the last election, "Honest" John Howard gave the people of Australia a proposed ministerial code of conduct. Several of his ministers have already fallen foul of this code and been dismissed to the backbench.

Millionaire Senator Parer, Minister for Energy & Resources, is the latest minister fighting accusations of conflict of interest, due to his family trust's heavy investment in mining companies. Senator Parer has used his family trust to avoid paying tax. As a tax dodger, Warwick Parer certainly sets a great example for his constituents and the people of Australia. Now it seems that Senator Parer's ministerial stationary has routinely been siphoned for use of the Queensland Liberal Party.

The latest in this saga is that "Honest" John has breached his own guidelines. Mr Howard failed to either declare or immediately resign his directorship of the Menzies Research Center on becoming Prime Minister. Worse yet, at a Cabinet meeting which granted $100,000 to the Menzies Research Center, "Honest" John remained in the room and participated in the decision.

I doubt "Honest" John is going to take the high moral ground and resign over this affair. The astounding revelation is that both the Liberal Party and the Labor party routinely vote taxpayers had earned money to party political think tanks on a bipartisan basis. I'm sure there are a lot of equally worthy think tank organisations who could equally make use of a grant to promote community debate on important social issues, but somehow I think the Labor-Liberal power bloc will jealously prevent grants outside of the mutual interest and dependancy of the two party system.
(Takver - April 2)

Students and academics protest cuts to higher education

In a national day of protest against cuts to universities and other higher education institutions, students and academic staff took to the streets around Australia. Carolyn Allpoert from the National Teritary Education Union said the cuts put Australia's reputation as a leader in higher education at risk. "Staff and students are really concerned about the long-term affects of what the Government is doing. We have, and I trust we still do have, a high reputation in our area, not just for teaching but for also quality research and I'm afraid that it's getting to be almost impossible to continue to maintain that quality."

Speaking in Sydney, Mr Grahame McCulloch, national secretary of the NTEU, accused the Minister, Dr Rod Kemp of spreading lies when claiming funding to universities had increased by $550 million in the past three years. The truth is that public funding has been cut by more than $700 million, which has resulted in the loss of thousands of university places and the closure of many courses.

Vice chancellors at several major universities expressed their tacit support for the protest. Dr Kemp said universities have never been better resourced. He has dismissed the protest as another example of the "union strike ethic".
(Source: ABC April 1, Sydney Morning Herald April 2)

Telstra Union demands a Job Cut Freeze

The Communication Workers Union wants the Federal Communications Minister, Senator Alston, to put an immediate stop to job cuts while the Senate reviews the full privatisation bill. Ian McLean, from the CEPU, says job cuts are continuing even though the Minister himself has acknowledged that service levels are falling. The job cuts are causing excessive stress on employees and customers, particularly outside metropolitan areas. "The main reason is that Telstra has been cutting staff irrespective of the effect on service, just to make the staff numbers look good for privatisation. Telstra wanted to hide the fact that there is a problem. Now the Minister has acknowledged there is a problem, the first thing that should happen is a freeze on further job cuts."
(Source: ABC April 2)


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