War on the Wharfies News Summary
April 98



News Summary - Wednesday 29 April

High Court still out on Patrick appeal till Thursday

An announcement is not expected from the High Courst on Patricks appeal until Thursday afternoon. In the meantime the stay on Justice North's interim order for reinstatement of the workers continues. From comments made by various members of the Court the Maritime Union may defeat Patricks appeal. Justice Kirby said that this was a case where "more than money was involved". "It is an important point of principle, established by Parliament, that you don't sack people for their union membership." Justice McHugh and Brennan appeared puzzled how a company that had more than $300 million in working capital last September, was now on the brink of insolvency.

Patricks has been warned that if workers are not reinstated, and the union wins the conspiracy case, the company may be up for substantial damages based upon compensation for wages for the rest of the workers lives.

Patricks parent company, Lang Corporation continues its share slide. On 24/4/98 Lang Corporation advised the Australian Stock Exchange that it was suspending indefinitely operations in Adelaide, Port Kembla and Newcastle in NSW, Bell Bay and Burnie in Tasmania, Geraldton in Western Australia and Alma in Queensland.

Dispute is about union rights not productivity

The central issue about this dispute is the right to belong to a union free of discrimination. Patrick has ridden roughshod over that most basic right in a democracy through corporate restructuring. The same restructuring has probably resulted in a tax fraud, similar to the bottom of the harbour schemes of the eighties. What business people need to understand is that if Patrick gets away with this, then no business which works on credit is safe from corporate restructuring to default on payment of debts and responsibilities. No worker will be safe, and neither will any small business which trades with such a company.

Much debate is ensuing about the need for productivity. Different reports are being produced by each side. The Maritime Union has never denied that further improvements to productivity can be made. However, no one seems to be analysing the contributions of management to the inefficiencies on the waterfront. Patricks action in sacking its workforce and hiring scab labour under individual contracts has hidden the fact that the inefficient management of the company is as much to blame as work practices for low productivity.

There is also strong evidence to suggest that Australian wharves are already close to 'world's best practice' based upon several measures. The following email published was published on the Leftlink List:


For a long time now media commentators have been parroting the coalition line that Australia's waterfront must be "reformed". The well-funded union-smashing exercise supported by (minister for industrial confrontation) Peter Reith and his mates has been justified on the basis of the supposed lack of productivity and inefficiency of Australia's waterfront workers. However this "fact of life" has just been exploded and revealed as a myth by a report appearing in today's Weekend Australian newspaper:

Dr Clive Hamilton, executive director of the Australia Institute (an independent Canberra think tank), has just released a report on a study which concludes that Australian container terminals already are close to meeting international levels of productivity, and that further improvements are unlikely to occur from better work practices. Productivity is already well above the international productivity benchmark in the ports of Adelaide, Fremantle and Brisbane, although currently still below it in Melbourne and Sydney.

Furthermore, there have been recent and ongoing improvements in the Australian productivity level, and a significant amount of reform and restructuring has already been quietly taking place. Dr Hamilton's report also concludes that only "drastic" restructuring of the waterfront industry, such as establishing a single large container terminal in each port, would allow productivity (in terms of containers per hour) to significantly increase above present levels.

The federal government would appear to have large quantities of egg on its face. Any intelligent appraisal of how to handle the current situation by PM John Howard, and of the likely political fallout in the run-up to an election, must surely reflect upon the benefits to the government of retaining the cabinet services of minister Reith.

John Hermann
North Mayo, SA (Source: Leftlink 25/4/98)

From the Picket Line 29 April

Fremantle 50 Police attacked and dragged away picketers at Fremantle wharf to allow a Patricks Fuel truck onto the wharf. About 50 people are maintaining the picket.
ABC 28/4/98

Lismore, northern NSW Two speakers from the MUA in Brisbane will be speaking in Lismore on Thursday, May 7th, along with some supporters from the local area. The talk will take place at City Hall, Ballina Road, Lismore at 7pm.

The event is organised by Lismore Wharfies Support Group
phone: 6689 5431 or 6621 8231 for more information

A bus from Lismore will go to the mayday march in brisbane on Monday 4th May and hopefully will be able to visit the picket at the docks too.
Email to Takver

Alice Springs, N.T. A leaflet has been circulated, called the Spark, which outlines basic myths and facts on the waterfront dispute. The leaflet draws attention to the commonality of struggle for aboriginal rights and worker's rights.
Email to Takver

Townsville While Labor's industrial relations spokesman, Bob McMullan, was addressing the Townsville picket, a truck delivering goods to Patrick hit the boom gate and the damage has left the gate open.
ABC 28/4/98

Whyalla, South Australia Protesters interrupted the Federal Cabinet meeting at Whyalla in country South Australia. A crowd of about 60 unionists, students and members of Whyalla's community have been shouting and jeering since the ministers arrived.
ABC 28/4/98

Melbourne Appeals by civil libertarians and politicians have been partially successful in challenging Justice Beach's wide ranging injunction against protesting. However, any person claimed to be aiding or abetting the Maritime Union in the picket is still breaking the injunction.
ABC 28/4/98

Sydney ACTU president Jennie George told a packed Town Hall the dispute is far from over, and opposition to the Government and Patrick is growing. She said the dispute was not about productivity, but about the politics of union bashing. "We've never resiled from saying we can do better. But we can do better only when we are treated with respect, when the issues are genuinely addressed [and] when we stop having ministers believing their own rhetoric."
ABC 28/4/98

International Protest - addresses for Australian Diplomatic Missions
The Cyber Picket Line Website at
http://www.cf.ac.uk/ccin/union/ has compiled a comprehensive list of Australian Diplomatic Missions with Websites and public email addresses available. I ask all overseas visitors to this webpage to look up your nearest Australian Diplomatic Mission and deliver a protest about the actions of the Government in this dispute.
Email to Takver


News Summary - Monday 27 April

High Court still sitting in judgement

The High Court has extended the stay on Justice North's order for reinstatement of the wharfies. The Full Bench will continue hearing the appeal by Patrick tomorrow, with a decision on the appeal expected late tomorrow afternoon (Tuesday).

In other news, the Finance Sector Union of Australia has written to banks that are creditors for the Patrick shelf companies now under control of Administrators to emphasise the unique position the banks hold in being able to get containers moving on Australia's waterfront.

Tony Beck, FSU National Secretary, said "We are mindful of the need for prudential management by the banks and we encourage them on that basis to take a broader view of this issue especially given the wide range of their customers who are financially dependent on imports and exports. Clearly, it is in the financial interests of the banks to assist these companies to abide the Court's order, put the sacked employees back to work and get the containers moving. We are encouraging the Banks to use the unique position in which they find themselves to get people back to work and assist in resolving this matter to the benefit of all, something the Howard Government has failed to do."

(Source: FSU Media Release via A-INFOS 24/4/98)


News Summary - Friday 24 April

Maritime Union wins moral ground

Battle for the Docks is far from over

Effectively, Justice North's order to reinstate the 2100 employees dismissed by Patrick has won the union the high moral ground in this dispute. The findings that there are strongly arguable cases against Patrick for conspiracy and breaches of Reith's Workplace Relations Act gives the Union and supporters determination to keep up the pressure on the Government and Patrick.

If the injunction passes through a High Court challenge, it will be heard in the Federal Court throughout May. At a hearing today (Friday) before Justice Haynes the stay on the order to reinstate the workers was extended till 5pm Monday, with the Full Bench of the High Court expected to meet in Canberra during Monday. Justice Haynes said there was enough exceptional issues to warrant an appeal.

In London, Patrick has stopped its pursuit of the ITF in the High Court.

The Governments watch dog on secondary boycotts, Allan Fels of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has prepared a case against the union alleging the MUA had breached the secondary boycott provisions of the Trade Practices Act over planned international union boycotts. The case has not yet been filed.

Howard and Reith seen as treasonous

Peter Reith and John Howard do not know when to call it quits. They have been talking about waterfront reform for several years, when in reality they are not interested in reforming the waterfront, their sole purpose has been to scheme the destruction of the Maritime Union of Australia. At any instance they could have called an all party conference and sat down to discuss waterfront reform, but they have chosen to support confrontationist and partisan policies. They have not had the interests of Australia at heart - their sole concern has been the interests of employers in this dispute. As a reader of this page commented - their actions should be regarded as treasonous.

Peter Reith, like a trained cockatoo, continues to slander waterside workers by accusing them of rorts and excessive salaries. Yet, his own departmental database of waterfront awards, Osiris (http://indrel.agps.gov.au), reveals that for a normal work week a top salary is about $35,000, hardly an excessive figure. Wharfies earn extra payments from large amounts of overtime - which is far cheaper for the employer than hiring more staff. Peter Reith should clean up his own bed - his parliamentary colleagues in the Liberal Party are well known for rorting the system via travel allowances and familly trusts.

The Prime Minister declared his total support for Peter Reith, and stated he had no regrets about the Government support of Patricks. The Leader of the Opposition, Kim Beazley accused Peter Reith of being "front and center in a bungled piece of Zealotry."

Bank creditors maybe included in conspiracy trial

John Coombs has suggested that banks could be added as respondents to the union's claim of conspiracy. The bank creditors claim that the Patrick group owes $270 million. The syndicate comprises National Australia Bank, ANZ Bank, Citibank, Societe Generale, BankWest, Colonial and Bankers Trust. As creditors of the insolvent companies, these banks could force the Patrick employing companies into liquidation. The banks are said to have garantees from other companies further up the chain within Patrick and its parent, Lang Corporation. The employing companies are owed $14 to $16 million via inter company loans. This complex financial tangle only adds weight to the fact of a conspiracy to dismiss the workforce and obfuscate and obstruct any attempt by the union to keep the employing companies solvent, and operating.

The union has offered to underwrite the companies initial statup costs up to about $3.6 million. Administrator, Peter Book, said with this money the companies would be in a position to trade. He is pursuing about $14 million from other Patrick companies.

Chris Corrigan has released into the corporate and industrial relations world complex corporate structures designed to evade and minimise responsibilities under the law to creditors, whether they be banks, other businesses, or workers. It makes a mockery of unfair dismissal laws. The cat is out of the bag, and it remains to be seen what if any the Government will do to reassure workers and small businesses that this could be done to them at any time.

The tactics of Patrick and the Federal Government has come under strong attack by distinguished Melbourne Queen's Counsel, Frank Costigan. Costigan conducted a royal commission in the early 80's which examined organised crime on the waterfront and led to the investigation of bottom of the harbour tax evasion schemes. From his article in The Age 23 April 1998:

"I have followed with despair over the past few months the approach taken by Patrick and the Government. Both these parties have acted on the assumption of a serious problem on the waterfront. Both have failed consistently to spell out the nature of the problem except by emotive reference to historical events. Neither has attempted to identify with precision (i) the true extent of waterfront reform achieved over the last decade, (ii) the current (not historic) state of alleged rorts etc, or (iii) the role, if any, of management failures. This information is vital to determine the appropriate course of change and reform."

Lindsay Tanner, the Labor Party's Transport spokesperson has pledged to pursue the various secret consultancy reports which cost the taxpayer around $1.3 million. He will seek the assistance of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, as the documents maybe crucial in proving the conspiracy between the Government, Patrick, and the National Farmers Federation.

From the Picket Lines 24 April

While the court room battles continue, the MUA pickets and community assemblies have reputedly held up more than 10,000 containers around Australia. Roughly, 25-30% of all container shipments have been effected. The union continues to respond to requests for release of containers on humanitarian, medical or emergency grounds. The pickets and community assemblies have been important in maintaining pressure on Patrick and the Government, without which the unions claim for reinstatement would have had much less relevance in the courts.

The streets of Brisbane on Thursday saw demonstrations of MUA members and supporters successfully close down the Port of Brisbane. In intermittent rain, over 3,000 people succeeded in blocking all road and rail cargo in and out of the port. This demonstrations follows 184 arrests on Tuesday for blockading rail lines. In Melbourne, over 5000 people gathered last night at East Swanson Dock to celebrate the Federal Court injunction orders.

The wideranging injunction by Justice Beach of the Victorian Supreme Court is being strongly challenged as a denial of civil liberties. The afternoon the injunction was declared a tugboat crew decided to interpret the injunction to mean they could not come within 200 metres of Patricks East Swanson wharf, thus leaving a ship effectively stranded.


News Summary - Thursday 23 April

High Court stay on Federal court order to reinstate workers

The Full Bench of the Federal Court had dismissed an appeal by Patrick Stevedoring against an injunction handed down by Justice Tony North, which ordered Patrick to reinstate the workers. However, lawyers for Patrick, the Federal Government and the National Farmers Federation went straight to the High Court, where they argued the company's case. The High Court has granted a stay on Justice North's order until it determines whether the appeal against the order should proceed in the High Court. The High Court will begin hearing the matter at 9:00am tomorrow in Melbourne.

Workers at community assemblies and pickets around Australia celebrated the decision of the Federal Court. Jenni George, ACTU president, says the decision vindicates the union movement's faith in the action it has taken to date in the dispute. MUA national secretary John Coombs says the decision is another victory for the union but he says it could be tempered by the next attempted manoeuvre from Patrick and the Federal Government.

"One would hope that they will realise that it's in the best interests of the people that have been suffering the indignity of being sacked for some three weeks now, in the best interests of getting the waterfront back to some form of normality, and getting the cargo moved across the berths - that they accept this judgement and facilitate the early return of our people and the successful re-entry of Patrick into the stevedoring industry,"

Labournet Site attacked, ISP intimidated over wharf dispute

Hackers put LabourNet web site out of action

The LabourNet web site has been out of action since 1st April when hackers broke into GreenNet and did serious damage to the system files. Although the site has been online for some of the time since then we have not been able to update the site until now.

The hackers entered the system via the WWW server some weeks before the attack and uploaded programs which allowed them to crack passwords on the system. There is a serious possibility that the target may have been LabourNet.

We have the highest hit rate on GreenNet and they believe entry to the system was made via our site. It may be totally unconnected, but, at about the same time as the site was hacked, we received an abusive email, via a Hotmail address, telling us to "keep out of our affairs here in Australia" concerning the attack on Australian dockers.

LabourNet has a wide readership from portworkers around the world who look to it for news about the industry and we have been in the forefront of reporting developments concerning the Australian docks.

The hacking of GreenNet has prevented us from reporting the present confrontation or even being able to inform our web site readers why we weren't able to. GreenNet has now made a number of major changes to increase security. Other labour web sites should be on their guard!

Chris Bailey

Leftlink 22/4/98

In further correspondence to a-infos mailing list Chris Bailey elaborates on other legal problems which have involved maoving material to a different site (different country) to avoid a legal threat against Labournet's ISP.

A-INFOS 21/4/98


News Summary - Wednesday 22 April

Reinstatement Stayed by Full Bench

The full bench of the Federal Court has granted an extension on an order suspending the reinstatement of Patrick Stevedores workers. The extension is until there is a determination in the case, in which the company is seeking an appeal against the reinstatement of 1,400 workers. Barristers for Patrick are contending that Justice North did not have the power to force Patrick Stevedores to reinstate its workers, and argue that damages were an appropriate remedy. The court will reconvene tomorrow.

This morning 200 wharfies marched up to the front gate at East Swanson Dock and asked to be admitted for work. The constable on duty replied that they were not allowed in on the orders of the company.

ABC 22/4/98

Melbourne picket injunction appealed

An appeal has been lodged against an injunction restraining all members of the public from picketing on Melbourne's docks. The parties claim the injunction is too wide, is ambiguous and uncertain and goes beyond what is reasonably necessary to protect the legitimate business interests of Patrick Stevedores. They also say Justice Beach failed to give sufficient consideration to their democratic rights.

Prominent Labor Politicians and civil libertarians have joined the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) in appealling against the injunction.

Meanwhile, the Melbourne Port Authority has moved to extend a Supreme Court injunction, banning all members of the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) from land under its management.

ABC 22/4/98

Coombs negotiates with NSW Farmers

At a meeting in Sydney chaired by the NSW Government, the union has offered to move perishable goods and agriculutural chemicals through the non-Patrick Port Kembla dock, to avoid them being stranded at Patrick's docks. MUA national secretary John Coombs says the offer could extend to other states. "It was never my desire and, in fact, causes me considerable distress, that the dispute that's occurring has the potential to increase the hardship that's being felt by farmers in this country."

ABC 22/4/98

From the Picket Line 22/4/98

Women of the Waterfront

The wives of waterfront workers sacked by Patrick Stevedores are seeking a meeting with the Prime Minister and the Workplace Relations Minister. The Women of the Waterfront group has decided to seek the meeting as part of a wider attempt to counter criticism of the involvement of children in the waterfront dispute. They are also demanding explanations, from John Howard and Peter Reith, as to why their husbands were sacked.


184 sacked wharfies and their supporters are expected to appear in court over the next month after arrests at picket lines yesterday. Police arrested the protesters, who were blocking railway lines near Patrick's Fisherman Island operations and staging a sit-in on the road to the wharf.


The Newcastle Lord Mayor says an appeal for the families of sacked Patrick workers is an opportunity for the Hunter to show its generous community spirit. Greg Heys today launched the appeal, which has been started with $20,000 in donations from the Newcastle Trades Hall and Workers Club.


Trade unions in the United States, Japan, New Guinea, New Zealand, Sweden, and South Africa have pledged to help the sacked Australian wharfies, and are planning action, including in some cases refusal to unload Australian ships loaded by non-union labour. Unions in other countries are also pledging solidarity action. The Public Service International has authorised all its affiliates to work in cooperation with the MUA and ITF affiliates in industrial action.

An official for the 25,000-strong National Council of Dock Workers - Japan's largest single union - says its members will not allow the ships to be unloaded if they arrive at Japanese ports. Hiroyuki Nakao from the union, says the union will also impose a boycott on purchases of any Australian products and may hold a demonstration in front of the Australian embassy in Tokyo. "We are going to block Australian ships using non-union members and are not going to allow them to unload. We are not going to buy Australian products and may again protest in front of the Australian embassy here," he said, following a demonstration mounted last Friday. The way the Patrick sacked its workers is outrageous and we are so angry at the company for its dirty trick. It is far beyond common sense. It is a complete violation of workers' rights guaranteed by the International Labour Organisation."

The Japanese union was "very angry at the Australian Government for supporting the company. The Government should stop its support right now and Patrick must hire all those workers again and pledge that they will never do such a thing again,"

South Africa
South Africa's Transport and General Workers Union is taking action in support of Australia's dock workers. It says it is implementing work bans against any ship connected with Australia or carrying Australian goods.

Los Angeles, U.S.A.
The president of Australia New Zealand Direct Line, Mr Michael Beard, was addressing a local trade association in Los Angeles when about 50 members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union began their protest outside. Direct Line has seven ships operating between Australia and the US West Coast. The protest organisers say it is only a matter of time before ships loaded with non-union labour in Australia arrive on the west coast at which time the American dock workers will vote on what action they will take.

ABC 22/4/98

The truth behind Reith's Lies

For those who are sick to death of the conservative parrots and their lies about wharfies on $90,000 a year for 15 hours a week work, the following record of stevedore wages has been taken directly from the Department of Workplace Relations website OSIRIS which is a database of federal awards and agreements. The wages paid to stevedores for a standard working week at Patricks are as follows:

Grade 1 - $462.20 pw ($24034.40pa)
Grade 2 - $507.70 ($26400.40pa)
Grade 3 - $547.00 ($28444.00pa)
Grade 4 - $591.50 ($30758.00)
Grade 5 - $609.50 ($31694.00)
Grade 6 - $673.60 pw ($35027.20pa)

* Wage rates were increased by 4% above these figures on 1 January 1997. Permanent Employees are also entitled to a $5288 annual industry allowance as a trade off against former award entitlements.

These figures have been transcribed from the "Patrick Melbourne Enterprise Agreement 1996". These figures can be checked by going to:


It's no surprise that Reith's own Departmental records don't support his claims. Please ensure these facts (and their source) are spread as widely as possible.

Source: Leftlink 22/4/98


News Summary - Tuesday 21 April

Wharfies win in court, but lose the battle?

Justice North of the Federal Court has ruled that Patrick Stevedores must reinstate its 1400 wharfies. He ordered that the labour supply agreements between Patrick and the 4 labour supply companies be reinstated and that the administrators of the labour supply companies use their former workforce - the sacked MUA members - to do the work on the wharves.

He said by dividing the functions of employing workers and owning the businesses between two companies, the Patrick group put in place a structure which made it easier to dismiss the whole workforce. He stated to the court the fhe following points that:

Justice North said Patrick's claim that its employment companies were insolvent is an important issue, and that he would not normally order a company to trade if it was insolvent. "The employees have agreed not to claim wages to the extent necessary for the employer companies to trade profitably as the labour expense is the major operating expense. This unusual concession reduces the argument based on the insolvency of the Patrick employers."

Full text of the Federal Court judgement
ACTU statement on the Judgement

A stay has been issued by the full court pending an appeal to the full bench on Wednesday.

ABC 22/4/98

Corrigan to sabotage MUA victory?

If the appeal to the full bench of the Federal Court fails, Corrigan can simply refuse to advance operating expenses to the companies, and/or refuse to supply ships to load and unload which would force the administrator to declare the companies insolvent.

The administrator of the employing labour companies, Peter Brock, has said he would not provide any labour to Patrick unless he had some operating funds to cover issues such as insurance and workers' compensation. "We are not prepared to trade at a loss and we are not prepared to trade unless a number of concerns are covered."

He has given indications that he will opt to either return the subsidiaries to their original directors - which would almost certainly see them into liquidation - or decide not to trade. Either decision denies the wharfies natural justice. Mr Brooks said "What makes the court order so difficult is that I have not got any revenue, I have not got any ships to operate, and I suspect that I won't get any ships."

Under Corporations Law the administrator is obliged to trade solvently. Corrigan and Lang Corp can refuse to advance operating cash to keep the companies solvent. A meeting of all creditors(primarily the employees) is scheduled for May 11, however only three options seem available - to give the company back to the original directors; to liquidate; or a deed of company arrangement, using the Federal Government redundancy deal.

For full report: Sydney Morning Herald 22/4/98

Reith confident of a pyrrhic victory for MUA

Peter Reith was defiant although initially stunned by the wording of the North judgment and the impact of his orders to reinstate the contractual relationship between the Patrick owners and the former Patrick employees. Justice North had determined that there was an arguable case Patrick had breached both sections of the Government's (Reith & Howards) Workplace Relations Act concerning freedom of association and the contracts of employment between the company and its union workforce. Further, that "There is also evidence that the Patrick owners and other companies in the Patrick group, together with others, agreed on these unlawful acts as part of an overall plan to replace the workforce with non-union labour. This means there is an arguable case that the Patrick owners and Patrick employers have engaged in an unlawful conspiracy."

Peter Reith's response: "My view of the decision is that it is unworkable. It effectively means that, by order of the court, there must be a closed shop on the waterfront in respect of the Patrick terminals. It requires the administrator to manage businesses which, on the evidence before the court, are not in a solvent position. And that raises questions about the capacity and discretions available to the administrator under Corporations Law."

Sydney Morning Herald 22/4/98

Other Reactions

John Coombs hailed the Federal Court ruling as a victory for all workers. "There is still is apparently justice in this country in respect of workers who have been illegally dismissed. It's a landmark decision. ... [It's] about the question of whether or not you're entitled to believe that you've got some security and that employers are not stripping companies of assets and forming new companies and changing your employment arrangements so they can simply throw you on the scrap heap."

Jennie George said: "I have been able to achieve this for you because the union movement is one big family, and we've shown when we stand together against injustice, that we can do it. ... To Mr Corrigan, I appeal to you sincerely, you've got a lot of money, but please don't use the legal system to thwart the decision today. But I tell you if you do, wherever you appeal this decision, we'll be there."

The Federal Opposition leader, Kim Beazley, has called on all parties in the dock dispute to come together and achieve genuine waterfront reform. Mr Beazley says Labor in government completed two-thirds of the reform needed to lift Australia's waterfront to world-class standards. He said the remaining third should be completed through peaceful negotiation.

The Federal Opposition's Industrial Relations Spokesman, Bob McMullan, said the Court has given the Prime Minister a golden opportunity to step in and resolve the dispute. He said it shows that the Industrial Relations Minister, Peter Reith, is hopelessly compromised.

The President of the National Farmers Federation, Don McGauchie, says Patrick and his organisation will still win the waterfront battle.

Chris Corrigan said: "Patrick operations, which is the stevedoring operator, can draw its labour for its operations from a range of suppliers, and we will be choosing to draw those services over the next 24 hours from the new workforce, the new productive workforce,"

ACTU assistant secretary, Greg Combet, said Corrigan was just delaying "We're pretty confident that we've got a very solid argument to put to the Full Court."

The Stock Exchange suspending trading in Lang shares, the public company behind Patrick Stevedores, after the Federal Court's initial decision today. Lang Corp was down 10 cents on yesterday's result to $1.90 when the suspension order was made.

From the picket line 21 April 1998


About 165 MUA members and supporters were arrested at Fisherman Islands and on a railway track at Wynnum, when they blocked the Sandy Camp road rail crossing in Brisbane. ACTU official, Katie Steenstrup, says the protesters are blocking all trains from leaving Patrick's Fisherman Island operations. Wharfies will continue their picket at Fisherman Island tomorrow.

The Queensland Premier, Rob Borbidge, has threatened to use the criminal code against wharfies. He said that the Queensland Government has legal advice about using part of the Criminal Code which could see wharfies jailed for up to five years. There is a section of the Criminal Code which provides for jail terms of up to five years for people who obstruct free trade.

In state parliament Opposition leader Peter Beattie said the Borbidge Government is a wrecker that created the confrontation at Queensland ports. "Now he believes in the practice of industrial savagery, where power comes from the bite of a rottweiler. That's the industrial relations practice he supports."

A New Zealand seaman has accused Patrick security guards at the company's Brisbane terminal of using excessive force against him. Brian Elliott, who is a crewman on a New Zealand ship currently berthed at Brisbane, says a group of seaman walked on to the wharf to retrieve a ship's bicycle and were allegedly set upon by a dozen guards. He says he is taking the matter to police. "The security just jumped on us and forced me to the ground and [I] got a sore shoulder and a lacerations on the right side of my eye and face."

ABC 22/4/98


Sugar workers are about to join coal miners and wharfies on the Townsville picket line. Bill Welch, AMWU organiser said "We have got a bus load of employees coming from Ayr tomorrow which will be joining the picket line tomorrow afternoon. I think what has happened as people come more aware of the details there is a disbelief that a Government could go to this extent to try and divide the Oz community the way this gov has. It's not a government for the people, it's a government for big business."

ABC 22/4/98


The President of the ACTU, Jennie George, celebrated today's court ruling that Patrick's reinstate its sacked dock workers. Ms George said she hopes the decision remains in place.

ABC 22/4/98

East Swanson Dock, Melbourne

Picketers have been addressed by ACTU secretary Bill Kelty, who told them to maintain their presence in large numbers and not to rely on the courts alone for justice.

ABC 22/4/98


The MUA says it does not want to harm P&O Stevedoring even though it has stopped trucks getting to the company's wharf at Fremantle's North Quay. Unionists and their supporters have blocked the main entrance to the Patrick terminal in Fremantle, by preventing all trucks from getting past the picket line. This has created a long queue of trucks which were attempting to get to the P&O wharf.

This follows a long night of tension between over a thousand members of the community and hundreds of police. Police could be seen doing riot exercises. A fixed wing aircraft and helicopter kept a constant surveillance on the peaceful assembly.

ABC 22/4/98


Papua New Guinea wharfies have placed an indefinite ban on goods handled by Patrick Stevedores in support of their sacked Australian counterparts. The majority of PNG's 1,000 maritime workers decided to support the ban after they were requested to do so by the maritime union.

The Swedish Dockworker's union has banned any containers loaded at Patrick wharves.

ABC 22/4/98


Breaking News - Monday 20th April

Supreme Court Injunction excludes public protest

Melbourne - Monday 8pm. The Victorian Supreme Court has granted an injunction restraining all members of the public from obstructing Melbourne's waterfront. But it goes further than this. The order prevents anyone from being within 200 metres of any point on three roads leading to East Swanson and Webb docks. The order even includes a clause preventing anyone from taking a photograph of any person who is on, entering or leaving the area.

Justice Beach, in handing down the order, said there was evidence before the court that many of those picketing were guilty of serious criminal behaviour. He said it was not the case that the picketing was causing little more than a nuisance, and described the situation as mayhem and said in his opinion it was the duty of the court to address the matter urgently.

If what I was doing on Friday night and again this morning - standing in the cold and wet without much sleep in front of a couple of gates protesting, is serious criminal behaviour, then the law is unjust. I will disobey this injunction as I believe it is a denial of my rights in a public place.

Similarly, the protest has been very well organised, with first aid tents, firefighters ensuring the fires are safe, and protest organisers erecting barricades to ensure the police are unable to effectively charge (on foot or by horse) unarmed and peaceful protesters. The rail lines on the road have been named as a community sculpture "The Barricade", with the ends painted in flourescent coloured paint for safety.

Negotiations are cordially undertaken with the police periodically. This is hardly a picture of mayhem. This injunction is an attack on the public right to assemble and protest and should be condemned, appealed and openly disobeyed.

To emphasise the peaceful nature of the Community Assembly Line, organisers circulated the following flyer to protest participants, and at all times have emphasised the peaceful nature of the protest:

  1. All persons attending this peaceful community protest agree to abide by the following conditions.
  2. This community protest is peaceful and will only support creative non-violent resistance.
  3. If police should attempt to break through the peaceful protest line it will be resisted by protestors standing in group huddles. Protestors will stand in huddles with arms linked, holding on to belts and linking legs to create a strong linking resistance.
  4. If any protestor is dragged, attacked or other by police as part of the strategy to break the protest line, stay linked and disciplined and do not go to other protestors aid, in particular, men do not go to women's aid. Women attend this protest knowing all the risks involved.
  5. All protestors agree not to physically respond to police dragging protestors away from the protest line.

Stay linked and disciplined. Only go limp and let them carry you away. DO NOT PUNCH, KICK OR SPIT ON POLICE OFFICERS.

ABC 20/4/98, Takver


News Summary - Monday 20th April

From the Picket Line Monday 20/4/98


11.00pm. A thousand people at the Workers Embassy outside the Patrick terminal in Fremantle are preparing to be met by hundreds of police, being bussed from the Claremont showgrounds. Earlier in the evening two police helicopters circled the crowd, trying to estimate numbers. The crowd has been growing over the evening, and is the largest the Workers Embassy has yet seen.

The workers Embassy has noted a growing police presence through the day, and they appear to have commandeered an abandoned Port Authority store across the road from the Workers Embassy. Supplies, including food and gas, are being delivered to the compound, with a police officer guarding the gate.

Earlier today 200 members of the Manufacturing Workers Union marched to the Fremantle Wharf to show their support for the wharfies. No containers have left the terminal, a sign that the Workers Embassy has been successful.

The interim injunction, preventing several union officials and members obstructing vehicles trying to enter or leave Patrick's terminals has been extended until Thursday.

The President of the National Farmers Federation (NFF), Don McGauchie, speaking in Brisbane, claims farmers may try to drive trucks through union pickets at wharves in Sydney, Melbourne and Perth by the end of the week. Tony Cooke, from the West Australian Trades and Labour Council has urged protesters to act in a peaceful and professional way during the blockade. "Your move is to stay on the ground and stay with your friends, it is not to get involved in altercations with police officers. We're expecting them to protect you from any wayward vehicles and from any violent confrontation."

The Insurance Council of Australia says farmers who participate in plans to break the picket line on the Fremantle wharf will not be covered under most insurance policies.

ABC 20/4/98

ACTU steps up industrial action

The ACTU, at its executive meeting in Melbourne, has come out in support of widespread industrial action by other unions in support of the Maritime Union of Australia's (MUA's) dispute.

ABC 20/4/98

Court Action

10.00pm. Melbourne Injunction update. The MUA will appeal against a Victorian Supreme Court injunction preventing members of the public from entering Patrick Stevedore's Melbourne terminals. Union solicitor Josh Bornstein says the order is far too wide and a denial of natural justice. "The decision was made and orders were handed down affecting people who had no notice whatsoever of the proceedings today in the court. There were orders that were very broad in circumstances where people simply did not have an opportunity to be heard."

Victorian Trades Hall secretary Leigh Hubbard said on the ABC "This is the kind of order that is so broad as to be ridiculous and it brings I think the court itself into disrepute. And that's not about disrespect to the judge. I think it will be met with a very strong reaction from the community and the union movement. I can't say more than that until I've looked at the order. I must say that if this is what Patrick's have to rely on, then we as a community, are in a very poor position."

Patrick intends to proceed with contempt proceedings against the MUA on Wednesday in the Supreme Court of NSW. The community assemblies at Port Botany and Darling Harbour are being very effective...

ABC 20/4/98

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission is poised to launch Federal Court action seeking injunctions to halt an international boycott of Australian exports by overseas docks unions. Professor Allan Fels, indicated last night that the ACCC was preparing to launch the ground-breaking court case this week which would test the scope of the Trade Practices Act's boycott provisions.

Financial Review 20/4/98


The picket swelled to about 100 today with about 50 miners from the Bowen basin travelling to support the Maritime Union of Australia.

ABC 20/4/98


In Victoria, thousands of members of the National Union of Workers have walked off the job in support of the sacked maritime workers, and have joined the assembly down on the docks. Police have consulted with protest organisers, and it seems no action will be taken in enforcing the injunction until an appeal by the union is heard tomorrow.

ABC 20/4/98


The MUA has allowed 11 trucks to cross the picket line at Darling Harbour to pick up containers of medical supplies. Mick Doleman for the MUA said the exemption was based on humanitarian grounds.

A code of conduct will come into effect for the protest at Port Botany, similar to the code instituted in Melbourne.

ABC 20/4/98


The Foreign Affairs Minister, Alexander Downer, had talks on the boycott of Australian food in Canberra today with the US Ambassador, Genta Hawkins Holmes. Deputy Prime Minister Tim Fischer says he has spoken to people in Washington about a United States boycott of Australian farm exports. Unions in the United States, Britain and Japan have all ordered bans on Australian goods.

New Zealand unions have met in Wellington today and have pledged their assistance with the MUA, and will undertake solidarity action creatively to get around anti-union laws.

ABC 20/4/98


Port of Brisbane at Fisherman Islands has an increased police presence, but the protest remains peaceful. More than 30 police cars and a bus carrying police officers are inside the gates of the terminal. Unionists on the picket line continue to temporarily delay trucks from entering and leaving the site.

The National Union of Workers in Queensland may consider taking strike action as a show of support for sacked wharfies. The union will hold a meeting on April 30 to decide whether its members should walk off the job.

ABC 20/4/98

Burnie, Tasmania

The MUA has serious concerns that Patrick will use non-union labour to work two ships due in Tasmanian ports today and tomorrow. The union's Burnie pickets were reinforced overnight following yesterday's family day at the Burnie wharf and a show of solidarity from the forests when protesters from Mother Cummings Peak joined the picket.

ABC 20/4/98

Stock Exchange

It seems now the share market is not so sure that Corrigan can bust the union. Shares in Lang Corporation peaked at $2.60 last week, but today dropped 30 cents to close at $2.00. A further slide is expected.

ABC 20/4/98

Carr to initiate talks with wharfies and farmers

100 farmers blockaded New South Wales Premier Bob Carr at Walgett Airport today, until he offered to intitiate talks between the maritime union and New South Wales farmers in a bid to get a negotiated settlement to the dispute.

ABC 20/4/98

Whose hoarding the empty containers?

Abattoirs in Victoria and southern New South Wales are starting to stand down workers, as they claim they have been unable to get access to cargo containers. But the Meat Council's Christopher Creel says that is not the case. "Establishments that were looking as though they might have encountered some difficulties in sourcing containers toward the end of last week have been able to source containers. To the best of my knowledge, loading containers is proceeding to schedule." One should not forget that P&O Ports, with about half the container trade, is still operating. Containers are being loaded and unloaded.

ABC 20/4/98

Prominent people call on Prime Minister to negotiate

A group of more than 200 prominent Australians have called on the Prime Minister, Mr John Howard, to intervene and resolve the waterfront dispute through negotiation and mediation. The letter said: "The role of Government should be to minimise conflict and to encourage the resolution of differences. When a Government chooses to support the employer rather than to encourage resolution, the confidence of Australians in a `fair go' is badly shaken."

Launching the letter at East Swanson Dock yesterday, the comedian Max Gillies, said the Howard Government had abdicated its role as a Government for all Australians by endorsing the sacking of 1400 workers. "Up until last week it had only been groups we commonly regard as ratbag fringe groups who have advocated violent confrontation as a way of settling our differences and achieving political change. This changed last week and for the first time it . . . was our national Government. And this is a cause for great shame."

ABC 20/4/98

Reith & Howard

Mr Reith said the Government has not considered using the army to clear the backlog on Australian wharves. On Friday, the Prime Minister did not rule out bringing in troops. Hundreds of Maritime Union (MUA) supporters staged a rowdy protest at a business function near Brisbane, attended by the Workplace Relations Minister Peter Reith. Mr Reith was presenting at Beenleigh the local business achievement awards.

ABC 19/4/98


News Summary - Saturday 18th April


News Summary - Saturday 18th April

From the Picket Line - Friday 17th - Saturday 18th April

Port Botany, Sydney

New South Wales unions sent bus loads of members to the picket line at Port Botany today. In mid afternoon, police made an unsuccessful attempt to clear the picket line, following the arrival of a truck at the terminal. A large number of people were detained, and later released. More than 500 people remain on the picket line at Port Botany.

The New South Wales Government has released legal advice from the Crown Solicitor that police have no responsibility to stop union members picketing wharves. According to the New South Wales Labor Government, police are only there to stop anyone on the waterfront breaching the peace, they are not there to assure trucks get through - that is a matter for the civil courts. This really angered "Honest" John Howard who wants the police to be used as Corrigan's front line troops against the MUA.

New South Wales Premier Bob Carr has put forward a 5 point plan to negotiate a settlement. This involves the Federal Government, Patrick Stevedores and the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) sitting down and accepting a compromise in order to reach a peaceful end to the dispute. Under the plan Patrick would give a commitment to re-employ the sacked workers in exchange for the union agreeing to efficiency improvements.

Report of the Community assembly at Darling Harbour dock


Friday: While 300 people maintain the picket line at East Swanson Dock, Union delegates are holding an emergency meeting to discuss their next move in the waterfront dispute. At The picket concrete blocks have been placed across the railway line leading to the dock. The picket is being staffed in shifts to ensure the picket line is maintained. Police say they will move in before next Tuesday to close the picket down. A confrontation is expected. Police minister McGrath predicted the waterfront dispute would reach a "bloody battle".

Mr Coombs said that court injunction stopping his union picketing docks has backfired as the community has stepped in to fill the place of maritime workers. "The community has now come down and taken over these pickets, they are outraged. And that's my experience no matter where I go in this country, people are outraged and they are coming down and demonstrating that outrage. And no police, no injunction, no Patrick and no Federal Government will get over that. And Howard has pulled the wrong card here. He thought this union was so hated and reviled that people wouldn't come out in support of it and they've come out in their thousands." 3000 people spent the night at East Swanson dock to prevent the police closing down the picket line - now renamed the Community Assembly Line. A tense situation at dawn between hundreds of police facing the 3000 picketers resolved itself when 2000 building workers marched to the picket at 7.30am.

One ANL ship with parts for Toyota plants was apparently originally diverted to a Patrick dock by the government, has now been rediverted to P&O to be unloaded by MUA members. Reith is pushing the 'MUA putting other jobs at risk' line, but the Toyota unionists, the very people who Reith was framing as the MUA's victims, have promptly resolved in union meetings at both the Altona and Port Melbourne plants to support the MUA. If Toyota had stood these workers down, many would have joined the Community Assembly Lines on the Docks.

Saturday Night
It appears a temporary truce has been negotiated between police and people on the picket for tonight. Evidently, police were made to work 14 hours straight without a meal break. Victorian police are about to launch an industrial campaign of their own for a payrise and improved conditions.

ABC 18/4/98

Report of the Community assembly at East Swanson dock


Saturday: Spirits are high on the Maritime Union picketline at Fisherman Islands in Brisbane, with sacked Patrick workers saying their support is growing.Union members were preparing to block a train from entering the Patrick facility this afternoon, but the train has now been delayed. The MUA has warned Queensland is on the brink of a state-wide strike as police clamp down on waterfront protests.


After the use of riot police in evicting the picket outside the gates, supporters of the MUA union in Fremantle have set up a so-called "workers' embassy" outside the Patrick terminal on council land. A peaceful vigil was maintained overnight with about 90 police officers including mounted police stationed just in front of the terminal gates. During today numbers have swelled to about 400 members of various unions. While no trucks have attempted to enter the Terminal yet, police numbers have been building steadily during the day.

More than 100 unionists are manning the picket line around the clock, stopping trucks to check if they are bound for the Patrick terminal.
WA's Pastoralists and Graziers Association has threatened to drive trucks through the picket at Fremantle, saying their livelihood is threatened by the union's blocakade on the docks. In reply John Coombs from the MUA said "And that's the one state where there has been a relationship develop with the farming community. And the farming community over there, that's the rank and file farmers ought to tell the rednecks to butt out because they're not going to take the law into their own hands. If they come down to a community protests on the Fremantle waterfront we won't be taking any responsibility for what occurs."

Court Action

Patrick has applied to the NSW Supreme Court to widen the court order to cover the Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union.

Friday night: The British High Court injunction against the ITF has ceased. Mr Justice Thomas said what he was effectively being asked to do in England was to interfere in an Australian trade dispute and try to embargo possible action by workers in ports around the world who are sympathetic to the MUA.

The Commonwealth and the National Farmers Federation (NFF) challenge in the Australian High Court the basis on which they have been involved in Federal Court proceedings in Melbourne as a result of writs issued by the MUA alleging a conspiracy. Justice Mary Gaudron heard arguments in the High Court on Friday in Brisbane, and dismissed their application. A win for the Maritime Union in its allegations that there was a massive conspiracy against union members by Patrick, the National Farmers Federation and the Government.

Workers Welfare

Union and community leaders including ACTU president Jennie George and former Premier Joan Kirner, have launched a national appeal for the families of sacked wharfies. Ex- victorian Premier, Joan Kirner, says the appeal is especially important for the wives of sacked wharfies.

The Medical Industry Association, which represents medical suppliers, has called on the union for medical products to be exempted from a blockade of Patrick's docks. MUA secretary John Coombs says it would be unacceptable for non-union labour to move the supplies. "We won't be allowing scabs to bring it out. If they want us to go in and get the equipment that's fine. We'll go in, withdraw their scabs, withdraw their goons and our members will go in to work for nothing to get the medical supplies out. But first up they have to open the gate and get rid of the people in there that have taken possession of our area of work." If the supplies are urgent, one wonders why they were not air freighted in to Australia! ABC 18/4/98

"Honest" John meets the MUA

"Honest" John Howard was jeered and heckled, and had eggs thrown at him when he came face to face with a 500 MUA protestors and supporters while opening an electorate office at Maitland, west of Newcastle.

International Solidarity

ILWU calls for a boycott of Australian farm produce

The International Longshore and Warehouse Union has called on all union members across America to boycott Australian meat and farm products. This is only "phase one" of an industrial campaign by the ILWU in support of the wharfies in Australia.

The union's President, Brian McWilliams, believes an attempt to break the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) is part of a larger global strategy by international shipping and stevedoring companies, and various national governments, to bust dock worker unions around the world.

ABC 18/4/98 Japanese protests The trade fallout from the dispute increased last night when Japan's leading transport unions threatened to ban imports of Australian farm products, including beef.

Sydney Morning Herald 18/4/98


News Summary - Friday 17 April


The following Resolution was adopted by the PSI Executive Committee on 15 April in support of the Maritime Union of Australia.


The Executive Board of Public Services International, meeting in Geneva, Switzerland on 15 - 17 April 1998

NOTES WITH ALARM the provocative and oppressive actions being taken jointly by the Australian government and Patrick Stevedores, the firm which employs members of the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA);

CONDEMNS the conspiracy between that government, that employer and the Australian National Farmers Federation, aimed at the destruction of the MUA and which has led to the illegal sacking of 1400 workers for the crime of belonging to a free trade union;

CONDEMNS the illegal use of state resources, including the military, by the Australian government in assisting an employer to conspire against its employees;

RECOGNISES that this attack on unionists is an attack on the whole of the trade union movement and reflects the totally anti-worker policy of the Australian Government, which is attempting to deny workers basic rights to organise;

RECOMMENDS to all PSI affiliates which organise members who work in or have contacts in ports or harbours anywhere in the world to work in close solidarity and co-operation with the MUA or other affiliates of the International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF) in combating the actions of the Australian government and Patrick Stevedores;

URGES Customs Officers around the world to take whatever action they can to counter the actions of the Australian government and Patrick Stevedores;

CALLS on the Australian government to cease immediately its provocative and biased participation in this affair and to turn its efforts instead to using its resources and authority to promote a negotiated settlement of this dispute in the interests of the whole community;

URGES all shipping employers to resist the request by Patrick Stevedores to expand this dispute in transferring their business to Patrick and applauds those which have resisted this temptation;

OFFERS the ITF and the MUA full assistance and co-operation in reinstating the sacked workers and getting the two parties back to the negotiating table where this dispute should be settled; specifically offering any practical assistance which PSI can provide in the event that the ITF is prevented by the courts in the United Kingdom from actively supporting its affiliate and its members.

N.S.W. Transport Workers Union reminds drivers on safety

The N.S.W. Branch of the Transport Workers Union condemns Patrick Stevedores for the Sacking of its workforce. The Union is concerned for the safety of its members who are directed to drive through industrial confrontations.

The T.W.U. reminds transport workers that under the occupational Health and Safety Act , if they genuinely believe they are in an unsafe environment , they may refuse to enter that unsafe area.

Labor Council of N.S.W. organises to support wharfies

Labor Council of N.S.W. , in responding to recent developments in the waterfront dispute , fully supports the campaign of the MUA in conjunction with the ACTU , to seek the reinstatement of all sacked Patrick employees. Council condemns the actions of the Federal Government and Patricks in conspiring to smash the MUA and the organised labour movement in Australia. These actions are contrary to the spirit and intent of Australias long traditions of settling industrial disputation by conciliation and arbitration.

As such they are plainly unAustralian , undemocratic and pose grave threat to the job security of all Australians.

Specifically , the Labor Council will:

  1. Liaise closely with the MUA and the ACTU on all aspects of the dispute.
  2. Convene an MUA Defence Committee of Senior N.S.W. officials to meet regularly in order to monitor developments , plan activities , supportive action and co-ordinate the N.S.W. union movement`s responses;
  3. Establish a N.S.W. Waterfront Family Support Trust Fund WITH AN INITIAL Labor council contribution of $25000 and a target of $500000 from N.S.W. unions and the general community. This fund will be administered by trustees and monitored and reviewed in accordance with future developments in the dispute.
  4. Encourage all affiliates to "adopt" M.U.A. families with financial support which may include specific support from union offices , workplaces, regions or Branches;
  5. Labor Council will allocate up to $50000, to underwrite the costs of:
    1. a media/public relations consultant to assist the MUA and NSW unions in the campaign
    2. a media campaign in defence of trade unionism , both in general media and specifically through Labor Council`s state wide media assets.
    3. preparation of generic publicity material for adaptation by individual affiliates for their particular membership needs.
    All Labor Council media strategies to be co-ordinated with the M.U.A. and the ACTU
  7. Co-ordinate the preparation,collection, distribution and signing of petitions opposing Patricks actions;
  8. Organise a meeting of union officials, organisers , activists and delegates to co-ordinate the N.S.W. contribution across all affiliates.

Business crisis while Lang shares surge

Over the last week, thousands of containers have been held up on the wharves because of Patrick sacking its workers. The Melbourne Toyota plant is threatening to shut down its car plant and standing down its 2,500 employees, bacause crucial components are held up. Over 4,500 containers are held up at East Swanson Dock, unable to be moved because of the picket. Now businesses are facing a shortage of empty containers. Columbus Line managing director said stevedoring delays had "stuffed up" Columbus' shipping schedules to crucial North American markets. Some employer groups considering legal action against the pickets.

Lang shares continued to rise on the share market as the stock exchange investigates Lang's disclosures. Under Exhange listing requirements, companies are required to disclose promptly anything that may materially affect their share price. Part of the MUA legal claims allege serious Corporations Law breachs by Patrick. These focus on the series of share buybacks totalling $68 million, the labour supply agreements which provided for the automatic termination of employment in the event of insolvency, the business purchase agreements for the shift of all equipment assets out of the labour hire companies, and the appointment of administrators. Patrick Operations No 2 has $60 million in paid up share capital, but in its 1996 return had a single share on issue with a value of $2.

(Financial Review 16/4/98)

Government seeks move to High Court

In an attempt to remove the Commonwealth and the National Farmers' Federation from the Federal Court hearing the Attorney General is challenging the reason for the Commonwealth being involved in the current Federal Court case. A High Court hearing has been listed for 2.30pm tomorrow in Brisbane. The union claims the sackings breached employment agreements, company and industrial laws, and were part of a conspiracy involving the Federal Government.

(ABC 16/4/98)

From the Picket Line 16 April


Union picket lines at Melbourne's docks have been told by the Melbourne Port Corporation they are trespassing and have been ordered to leave.

Thousands of union delegates have rallied in Melbourne, voting to hold snap strikes in support of sacked waterfront workers. They say they are prepared to walk off the job at any time, if picket lines at East Swanson and Webb Docks need reinforcing.

The Victorian Supreme Court has ordered MUA picket lines closed down at the Port of Melbourne. The Maritime Union have handed over control of the picket line at Melbourne's Swanson Dock to the United Firefighters Union. The United Firefighters Union is now in charge of the picket lines in a bid to delay the implementation of the Supreme Court order. MUA members are standing firm at nearby Webb Dock following the court decision.

(ABC 16/4/98, 17/4/98)


NSW Premier Bob Carr said that the waterfront sackings could extend to other industries, if the wharfies lose their case in the Federal Court. Mr Carr visited the Sydney picket lines again today to offer a message of support. He says he is concerned that employers in other industries could follow suit in sacking their unionised work force. "I mean, this is a very dangerous principle. It's something that all Australian workers, even those who've had disagreements with the waterfront employees, even those who wouldn't endorse the wharfies, have got to think about."

400 people picketed Patricks gates at 5am waiting for 30 trucks to arrive. The Truck drivers refused to break the picket for safety reasons. A train expected at 6am also did not show. The picket was led by the national head of the Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union, Mr John Maitland.

(ABC 16/4/98)


Union members chained themselves to a rail line into the Port of Brisbane. Police used bolt cutters to remove the protesters who were attempting to stop a train carrying Patrick cargo to the wharf. No arrests were made, but some protesters screamed as they were pulled off the track. Yesterday, a train was delayed for several hours

The ACTU in Queensland has not ruled out industrial action as one of the options to be put to delegates at a mass meeting in Brisbane today. General secretary John Thompson says the options are about a mobilisation against the legislation. "At the end of the day I think, for workers to change laws that are bad and putting aside the MUA dispute, I doubt very much if there won't be some form of industrial action at some time in the not too distant future. Because clearly the laws we've got are very bad and don't give us an equitable or fair go."

Patrick Stevedores' Hamilton wharf in Brisbane could be shut down immediately, because of major breaches of environmental standards, says an environmental consultant. Grey Spillsbury, says six environmental standards have been breached, including the leaking of sump oil into the Brisbane River.

(ABC 16/4/98)


In a pre-dawn raid, scores of riot police moved in on Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) members protesting outside the Patrick Stevedores terminal at the Fremantle Port in Western Australia. Police dressed in riot gear and the elite emergency unit, the Tactical Response Group, dragged the unionists into police vans and most were released a couple of hundred metres up the road. Reporters at the scene said the police, armed with batons, outnumbered the 100 protesters, who are sitting on the road leading into the Patrick terminal. As more police arrived at the scene, MUA members were dragged off the road. The Port Authority has evicted the picket. Protesters at Fremantle wharf have begun erecting a workers' embassy on council land. Union numbers at the picket line have increased significantly in the past few hours. Thousands of chanting unionists threw their weight behind waterside workers who were forced from their picket line by riot police in a 2am raid.

(ABC 16/4/98)

The raid was condemned by the State Labor Party and sparked a massive turn-out of unionists who joined a new picket line 100 metres from the gates. Around midday, police tried to move forward a few paces and unionists surged towards them, abusing officers and pushing them back towards the gates. A police spokesman admitted police had made a mistake by moving forward but denied the early-morning raid was heavy-handed.

Sydney Morning Herald 17/4/98


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