War on the Wharfies News Summary
March 98



Breaking News - Tuesday 31 March

Non-union wharf trainee blows the whistle - mass sackings imminent
Mr Jamie Meek, a young trainee at Webb Dock for the last 8 days, told Channel 7 that trainees were informed that Patrick's planned to sack its Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Fremantle workers. The MUA's national organiser, Mr Michael O'Leary, said Mr Meek had been told he and other recruits were being trained to work for Patrick "after Easter".

Mr Meek said that when he tried to leave the NFF operation to go to the union, he was taken to a hotel and threatened, and threats were made against his family.

Mr Jamie Meek also claims the Federal Government was to fund termination payouts to Patrick's sacked workers.

The response to this act of whistleblowing was:

In further developments the Queensland Government has issued a formal invitation to the NFF to establish a rival stevedoring operation in Brisbane. The Premier, Mr Borbidge, said his State "deserves a waterfront that works" and that Queenslanders were tired of "union thuggery". A four-day strike from Friday morning in Brisbane was notified yesterday, which is protected industrial action over a new enterprise agreement.
(Source: Channel 7 - 30 March, ABC News & Sydney Morning Herald - 31 March)

Jamie Meek is a pretty brave person. Whistle blowing is never an easy thing to do, and its even harder under threats of violence to yourself and your family. This is an act of intimidation which highlights the ruthlessness of the NFF and Patricks. Noticably lacking is a condemnation of this intimidation by Peter Reith, the NFF, Patrick management & P&C Stevedores management. Premier Borbidge would do well to distance himself from this sort of non-union thuggery which he so eagerly wants to invite to Queensland. Will the Democrats and Professor Fels (Chairman of Australian Competition and Consumer Commission) champion Jamie Meek's right to go to the union?
(Takver March 31)

News Summary - Monday 30 March

Other news:


News Summary - Saturday 28 March

Other news:


News Comment - Our Political Leaders


When it's drawn up by the same crowd that after winning the Federal election claims that it doesn't need to keep all its promises because they were not "CORE" promises. For a man who promised this countries electors honest government John Howard's record has been abysmal. Almost from the day when the Liberal/National Party took office, they have been backing away from their promises.

Not only have they post-election divided election promises into core and non-core pledges, they now want to tell us that John Howard's code of conduct is an elastic document that does not encompass Senator Parer's business interests. John Howard keeps on telling us that Senator Parer is an honest man, that it's inconceivable that he would do anything wrong, or he had done anything wrong. Really John I hate to tell you, your code of conduct was originally drawn up to prevent a possible conflict of interest. To change the core meaning of your so called code of conduct highlights the moral bankruptcy of the current Federal government. Anybody who still believes John Howard's pledge that his administration would be "honest and open", must be dropping one too many L.S.D. tabs.


Jeffrey (Glib) Kennett home grown hero? Yes that's right, Jeffrey can see the writing on the wall and he's decided to take a leaf out of Jo Bjelke Peterson's book and has embarked on a state's rights campaign. His performance at the Premiers conference in Canberra, when he stormed out of the meeting with John Howard and his cronies was engineered to win him the favour of Victorian voters.

Our very own Jeff Kennett is trying to reposition himself as a home grown hero. His efforts on Victoria's behalf as far as the public health budget is concerned is a prima donna performance. Unfortunately for Jeffrey, many of the statements he has come out with are down and out lies, that's right porkies. Anybody who takes Jeffrey Kennett's metamorphosis as a champion of state rights only has to look at the Kennett regimes record as far as the health sector is concerned, to realise that the man deserves an Academy Award and a Logie for his acting abilities.

Everybody knows that the Kennett regime has ripped the guts out of the public health sector. Over the past six years Commonwealth input has increased while state input has decreased. Although the Victorian budget is in surplus, the Kennett regime continues to gut the public health budget. In 1998 state funding for the public health sector has decreased by a further 1.5% while Commonwealth funding has actually increased.

Anybody who is stupid enough to be taken in by Kennett's song and dance about the public health sector, only needs to look at his governments record of mismanagement to realise that the Victorian public health care sector is in crisis, not because of a lack of Commonwealth funding, but because the Kennett regime has already ripped the guts out of the public health system.


Wonderful isn't it, Bill Clinton is criss crossing Africa. In one of the most hypocritical speeches I have heard in a long time, Bill Clinton waxes lyrically about Africa's economic rehabilitation. In his administration's opinion Africa is open for business and is ready to join global capital.

What a load of utter garbage. The desperate economic plight of most of Africa's 700 million people is due to a combination of corrupt authoritarian governments and a crippling debt burden. No economic revival can occur in Africa until this debt is lifted. Every year more money flows out of Africa to service this massive debt than remains in Africa to satisfy local needs.

If Clinton and the West were interested in the welfare of Africans, the first thing they would do is cancel this debt. If the debt is not cancelled, Africans will continue to live impoverished lives. United States and global capital is not the solution to Africa's problems, it is the problem. If Bill Clifton is interested in the fate of Africans he should be using his considerable power to cancel Africa's worsening debt burden. Anything short of this is unforgivable posturing.

News Comment from: Anarchist Media Institute, Melbourne, Australia
Number 293 23rd - 29th March, 1998


News Summary - Wednesday 25 March

Other news:


News Summary - Monday 23 March

Other news:


News Summary - Friday 20 March


News Summary - Tuesday 17 March

Other news:


News Summary - Friday 13 March

Other industrial news:


News Summary - Wednesday 11 March


News Summary - Tuesday 10 March


News Summary - Friday 6 March


News Summary - Tuesday 3 March


News Summary - Monday 2 March 1998

with Photos page (100KB)


Overseas News - Neptune Jade Saga Continues....Bosses intent on bankrupting American Dockers

(Monday 2 March 1998)

In the fall of 1997, there was a protest in the port of Oakland against a container ship called the Neptune Jade chartered by a Singapore company. The reason for the protest was the ship's British cargo. Back in 1995, the Mersey Docks and Harbor company in Liverpool fired 500 men when they refused to cross a picket line set up by their work mates, some of whom had been fired earlier for having tried to fight employers' attempts to sabotage a labor agreement. Liverpool was at the time the last organized port in the Britain with a collective bargaining agreement. The fight sparked a big response by dockworkers all over the world. There were pickets from Vancouver south to Long Beach and across the Pacific to Japan and Australia. Unable to discharge its cargo in Oakland, the Neptune Jade traveled to Vancouver, then Yokohama, then Kobe. At each stop, the dockers said no.

Now the the PMA has brought lawsuits against the ILWU and the picketers, designed to send a simple message: Acts of worker solidarity will not be tolerated. Again and again, the PMA has gone to court in a program of intimidation in the form of multimillion-dollar damage suits and associated legal maneuvers against individual workers and sympathetic outsiders as well as the unions. (Source: LA Times)

On Thursday, February 27th, 1998, 500 Demonstrators showed up bright and early (8 AM) to the Pacific Maritime Association's (PMA) Oakland Office in the city center of downtown Oakland, across the bay from San Fransisco. Union members and officials from ILWU locals up and down the west coast as well as IWW, HERE, SEIU, IBT, OCAW, and scores of others were on hand as well as the Labor Party, various political organizations, and community supporters were present. We even set up a temporary micro-power radio transmitter to broadcast the demonstration to the surrounding community.

Speakers included everyone from striking Liverpool Dockers, Spanish Dockworkers, and various ILWU members to Jerry Brown, Alexander Cockburn, and Ignacio De La Fuente (Oakland City Councilman). Speakers and demonstrators urged the PMA to drop its lawsuit against the picketers and to respect the rights of free speech, free assembly, and the right of workers to picket. Demonstrators wore stickers proclaiming, "I picketed the Neptune Jade" and signed letters asking Miniace, head of the PMA to sue them as well. Essentially if Miniace and the PMA want a witch-hunt, they're gonna have to hunt a great many witches.

After the demonstration concluded, we marched over to the courthouse where the hearing was scheduled to take place, but the PMA managed to consolidate the scheduled hearing with another that will take place next Tuesday (March 3rd). Instead, we had more speeches, and the radical street-theater / puppet show troupe, Art & Revolution held a skit re-enacting the now world-famous pickets, including a large mock-up of the Neptune Jade.

Then we marched to Laney College to protest the Laney College & Peralta Community College district's crack down on the Laney College Labor Studies Club for "allowing" two members of that group to participate in the picket and hold a "dangerous and threatening banner" that most likely influenced the PMA's lawyer's decision to Sue that group as well. President Ernie Crutchfield, who had once participated in student demonstrations himself, had called on a armada of Oakland Sheriffs to arrest us, but when he was shown that he had signed a permit allowing our demonstration on the campus that day, *himself*, he suddenly retreated to his office, and the police parted like the red sea.

We then soapboxed for awhile on campus, and spread the word to the Laney College student body.

I think big thank yous and huzzahs are in order to all who worked so hard to make this demonstration happen and to all of you who have supported us thus far. We're keeping up the fight, and we hope that those of you who can make it will join us next Tuesday Morning (March 3) at 10 AM at the "post- office" court at 12th and Alice in Oakland. We need to pack the courtroom.

I hope we can prove once and for all that when free speech and freedom of assembly go head to head with international capital, that free speech and freedom of assembly should prevail. This will be a very interesting test case to show whether or not the First Amendment will be squashed by State-Capitalism and multinational corporations. (Source: A-Infos News)


News Comment (27/2/98)


Watching the Minister for Workplace Warfare, the effervescent Peter Reith (froth and bubble man) crow on about the injunction the Victorian Supreme Court has slapped on the Maritime Union of Australia, really highlights what few freedoms most people in this country have. That old adage "scratch a Liberal and find a Fascist" has once again been proven beyond a shadow of a doubt.

If and when the Maritime Union of Australia decides to bend and break the Supreme Court injunction is a tactical decision. Anybody who thinks that the MUA is going to be frog marched to oblivion because of a legal injunction, needs to think again. Those media outlets who are describing the issuing of the injunction as the end of the maritime dispute, need to look up their history books.

The conditions and wages trade unionists enjoy today didn't appear from nowhere, they were granted to workers after long and bitter workplace disputes. Not one improvement in wages or conditions has occurred because of an employers generosity. They have occurred because workers have pursued their demands by withdrawing their labour. The history of the Australian Labour Movement has been punctuated by mass sackings and imprisonment of workers. Although the Federal Government (with a little help from their friends the Democrats) has been able to prime the judicial system in employers favour, the fact is that the law can only succeed if people decide to comply with it. If people decide not to comply there aren't enough courts, police, or jails in this country to guarantee compliance when workers begin to resist these unjust laws (and they will).

The Federal government will soon realise that although they control the laws and courts, they will have to jail hundreds if not thousands of workers if they want to smash the power of workers organisations. The only thing working people have to fear is fear itself. The States laws and courts are no match for the collective might of the working people of this country.


I find it difficult to understand how the media could describe the partial privatisation of Telstra and last weeks record profit as a victory for Australia's "mums and dads".

The partial privatisation of Telstra and the privatisation of many other State and Federal government assets highlights the point that public assets do not belong to the public, but belong to the government of the day. It's strange that in a society where private property rights are sacrosanct, so little regard is given to the property rights of the public.

If public assets belonged to the people the government would not be able to sell them without a referendum. Even if the government has the right to dispose of public assets, it does not have the right to sell them to the highest bidder. If public assets belong to the people and the government of the day decides to privatise them "on our behalf", we should each receive an equal parcel of shares, which we could either keep or sell on the open market.

The problem with the partial privatisation of Telstra, is that those sixteen million Australians who did not have the money or chose not to purchase Telstra shares have now been cheated out of their heritage by the Federal government. Privatisation, a policy pursued with zeal both by the Liberal/National and Labor Parties is a massive public swindle. Reviewing this dismal situation it's interesting to note that the Australian Constitution has not protected the property rights of the public and that this Nation's Courts have consistently failed to protect the publics' property rights. It's disheartening to note that the Federal Treasurer Peter Costello intends to legitimise the Federal governments theft of privatising the rest of Telstra after the next Federal election.


Anyone who believes that the struggle between Simplot Australia and 85 of its workforce in Echuca is just a little sideshow think again. Simplot Australia is an arm of one if the largest transnational food corporations in the world. If they are allowed to get way with their plans to sack 85 of their workers and replace them with labour from a hire firm (Manpower Australia) collective bargaining will become a thing of the past in this country.


I won't be buying any of these brands while the workers at Simplot Australia Leggoes factory in Echuca are locked out. Transnational corporations only understand one thing, the bottom line. If they feel their bottom line is in jeopardy they normally pull in their heads quick smart. Think about it, who do you support, Simplot Australia or the workers who are about to lose their livelihood.


The A.N.Z. bank will, over the next few months lay off 1700 counter staff in its branches across Australia. This bank is at the cutting edge of new technological innovations in the banking sector. It wants to maximise its profits by laying off staff and automating its branches.

Don Mercer the former head of the A.N.Z. banking group was replaced by John McFarland, the current general manager because he wasn't that keen to lay off staff. Johnny McFarland has landed a very generous package on top of his two million dollars per year salary. A.N.Z. shareholders have recently voted Johnny a little bonus for a job well done, access to 12.8 million dollars worth of shares, which he can buy at today's prices when he leaves his position. Just to once again prove the point that capitalism is all about maximising shareholders profits, irrespective of the cost to a companies workers and the community, A.N.Z. shares rose 20c when the stockmarket was told that the bank was going to fire 1700 staff. It's good to see that capitalism has removed the human factor from economics.

Source: Anarchist Media Institute, Melbourne, Australia
Excerpt from Anarchist Age Weekly Review Number 288, 23rd February to 1st March, 1998


News Summary - Sunday 1 March

  • About two thousand unionists and their families gathered on the waterfront at Williamstown, to support wharfies involved in the Webb Dock dispute. They launched a flotilla of boats and yachts to encircle Webb Dock.

    Picture: Webb Dock from the air Victorian Trades Hall Council Secretary Leigh Hubbard said "It's Clean Up Australia Day and of course we'd be asking Peter Reith and John Howard and Chris Corrigan of Patricks to clean up their act...In fact we believe that there've been distortions and lies about what's been going on the wharves. We believe they should be cleaning up their act, and really if they want to do anything about productivity and efficiency, they ought to look at management. They ought to look at the real problems that are there on the waterfront and not just blame union members and the union." (Source: ABC, Erin)
    Photoreport to follow in a couple of days!

  • Workplace Relations Minister Peter Reith has told Channel Seven that the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, the Attorney-General's Department and police have launched separate inquiries into the Maritime Union action. (Source: ABC)
  • Mr Corrigan of Patrick has told Channel Nine the company is losing money and faces possible closure if the dispute is lengthy. "I'm not going to attempt to forecast how many days or weeks we could last in whatever circumstances might arise, but one doesn't need to be overly skilled in financial analysis to see that it ain't long." (Source: ABC)
  • Two men who had started work at the scab operation at Webb Dock, both experienced waterside workers, have condemned tests they were given as fake, that cranes and other equipment were in poor condition, and that workers deliberately provoked MUA members picketing at the gates. In signed statements released by the ACTU yesterday, Mr Lucas Rene and Mr Richard Scougall, both now living in Queensland and not MUA members, said they were told the answers to tests on crane driving and other skills.

    Mr Scougall said the tests "were a complete sham and of no real value to any authority". He said he was told on several occasions that the operation was intended to break the MUA. Mr Scougall was told by a P&C Stevedores employee, Mr Michael Cusack, "the NFF have millions of dollars and we want to get the MUA into court and tie them up there for a year and break them". Mr Rene said, "any ship owner would be mad to allow his ship to go in there as they really had no idea of what they were doing".

    MUA secretary, John Coombs, commented that the fake training was a criminal act. "This is a disgraceful situation, we have highly questionable testing procedures, questions raised about safety . . . clearly this is a union-busting dispute," (Source: The Age)

  • Other industrial news:
    • The executive of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, the peak national union council in this country, met on 25-26 February to consider, among other matters, the MAI. The ACTU Exec. carried a resolution which:
      - Describes the MAI as a treaty which would severely limit the capacity of Australian governments to regulate foreign investment in the public interest.
      - Supports international regulation of investment issues but rejects the basis of the MAI because it regulates governments, not TNCs, in a period when capital has too much freedom to move and too great an ability to avoid social responsibilities
      - Notes TUAC's efforts to secure binding labour standards clauses and calls upon the Australian Government to reverse its opposition to this proposal
      - Calls upon the Australian Government to initiate public consultation on the MAI and to publicly address the issue of how the MAI would affect Australia's capacity to
      1. control foreign ownership of real estate,
      2. require foreign investors to meet export and research and development targets,and include Oz citizens on Boards of Directors,
      3. restrict foreign ownership of media and privatised assets,
      4. preserve local TV content,
      5. regulate the entry of overseas workers,
      6. assist industry development
      7. subsidise public educational, cultural and social service bodies without incurring the reciprocal obligations to private providers.

      - Proclaims the above to be of serious concern to the ACTU because of the loss of sovereignty to overseas investors
      - States that any treaty should protect from legal action inernational public interest campaigns, e.g. anti-apartheid and environmental campaigns; must not override the capacity to promote local industry and jobs; and must take into account the need to promote core labour standards, social justice, and environmental protection.

      In addition to carrying the resolution, the ACTU decided to convene a meeting of union and community groups to consider a campaign over the MAI. (Source: Leftlink)


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Last Modified : March 30, 1998