War on the Wharfies News Summary
May 98



News Summary - Friday 29 May

Injunctions on MUA for secondary boycotts

In the first decision of its kind under the Trade Practices Act, Justice Bryan Beaumont of the Federal Court granted the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission injunctions under the Trade Practices Act designed to stop boycotts. They were made under section 45DB of the Act, which were inserted by the Howard Government in an effort to stop interference with international trade.

The MUA in response told the court the orders would not stop any boycotts because they were "unilateral and voluntary" and had nothing to do with the union. Mr Kevin Bell, appearing for the MUA, said the injunctions would be observed by his clients but "it doesn't lie within the hands of the MUA to bring about the ceasing of this action".

The terms of the injunctions specify that the MUA must tell the ITF that it does not want a boycott of the Columbus Canada or the Direct Kea, which is due to reach the west coast of America later this week. The MUA will lodge an action for a judicial review of the ACCC decision to sue the union, alleging it had been done for an "an improper purpose".

Sydney Morning Herald 28/5/98

Conspiracy case upsets Government election timetable

Justice Tony North of the Federal Court has rejected arguments from Patrick and the Government to delay the start of the case until October or December. Tony North said that the case should start soon after June 25. This may cause the case to run concurrently with a Federal Election, expected between August and early December. This may prove extremely damaging for the Howard Government, with revelations of its conspiracy to sack a workforce being revealed midway through an election campaign.

Meanwhile, in the Senate the Government is coming under increasing attack by the Democrats and the Labor Opposition to release the secret tax payer funded reports. ALP backbencher, Mr Neil O'Keefe, has alledged that major financial institutions including the AMP, National Mutual, Westpac and BT, had been involved in a move to support the share price of Lang Corp, the Patrick parent company.

A further embarrassment for John Howard and the Federal Government has been the Liberal and National Party endorsement of preferences to the racist One Nation Party ahead of the Labor Party in the Queensland State Election. Even a former Liberal Party Prime Minister, Malcolm Fraser, has urged voters to place One Nation candidates last, and has attacked the "base political expediency" of the Liberal and National Parties in Queensland.

Sydney Morning Herald 29/5/98

Columbus Canada sails with scab loaded cargo

Community action in Los Angeles has successfully stopped non-union loaded cargo on the Columbus Canada from being unloaded, and forced its repatriation to either Australia or New Zealand. This community action was not directed by the MUA but was a voluntary act of conscience by residents and workers to defend unionism and working conditions. Their solidarity and initiative are to be applauded and imitated. (Takver)

Columbus shipping reached a deal with the International Longshore and Wharehouse Union to unload the Columbus Canada. Only the unstruck cargo was to be offloaded and the 57 containers loaded by the scab labor was left aboard ship presumably for return to Australia. The ship was again greeted by protesters as it pulled into berth on Monday evening but the protest disbursed after news of the deal was revealed. The scab cargo should and will be sent to Australia to be reloaded by Unionised labor.

Email to Takver 28/5/98

A US spokesman for the shipping company, Columbus Line, said a deal had been struck with American unions to unload New Zealand cargo not affected by the ban so that the remainder could be returned for re-stevedoring in the southern hemisphere.

It is understood the company hopes to offload in New Zealand and reload on another ship, the Columbus Victoria, which will then travel to the US in a 20,000-kilometre round trip.

Sydney Morning Herald 28/5/98


News Summary - Wednesday 27 May

Columbus Canada berths - scab cargo to stay aboard

5.05pm AEST. According to an Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) report "hundreds of tonnes of exports loaded on a ship by non union labour will be sent back to Australia under an agreement to settle a dispute that has stranded the vessel [Columbus Canada] in Los Angeles for more than two weeks."

The Columbus Line reported it on their webpage as:


(Jersey City, NJ, May 26, 1998)...This is to advise that the containership COLUMBUS CANADA docked at the Matson Terminal, Terminal Island, California, Port of Los Angeles, on Monday, May 25, at approximately 5:30 pm.

Shortly after the vessel berthed, approximately 30 protesters established a picket line outside the gate of Matson Terminal. Following discussions between Matson and Columbus Line an undertaking was given that no Australian cargo would be discharged. After further discussions with the union, assurances were given that the discharge operations of the vessel would be monitored. Based upon these assurances the picket line dispersed. The vessel is expected to sail May 27.

Jersey City, NJ 5/26/98

Columbus webpage

San Fransisco - Oakland waits for Scab cargo ship

"It turns out that once again we're not sure when the Scab ship Direct Kea will dock or if there'll be a picket on Thursday.

This is understandably a tense and constantly changing situation. We have to remember that nothing is certain, and the best thing to do is to keep checking the hot-line. "
(See the
Harry Bridges Action Brigade )


ACCC prosecutes union for secondary boycotts in Federal Court

The Federal Court has granted interim orders preventing the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) from encouraging an international boycott of scab loaded ships. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has begun action against the union for alleged breaches of secondary boycott provisions of the Trade Practices Act. Also, Lawyers for the company's administrator have told the court $3.5 million will be available at the end of the month to pay the reinstated workers, however the banks are yet to make a commitment to release the funds. The Court hearings continue...

ABC 27/5/98


News Summary - Tuesday 26 May

Temper Tantrum by Reith at union deal - More on scab ships

Government temper tantrum at waterfront deal

In a fit of childish spite, the Howard Government has withdrawn access by the Patrick labour company Administrators to the $250 million waterfront redundancy fund. The union was successful on Monday in Creditors of the Patrick labour hire companies voting overwhelmingly for a 15-day adjournment of the crucial second creditors' meeting until June 9.

Peter Reith, in response, stated "Prior to the vote, the administrators advised the creditors that adjournment of the meeting would result in the Commonwealth's conditions for the provision of redundancy funds not being met. As a consequence of the failure to meet these conditions, the Commonwealth's redundancy offer put to the Patrick administrators has lapsed."

The adjournment was a blow to Peter Reith and Chris Corrigan, who had been pushing for the meeting to adopt a deed of arrangement, opening the way for the retrenchment of hundreds of MUA members. All the major creditors, the banks and the employees, voted for the adjournment. Significantly, John Coombs and Chris Corrigan spent significant amounts of time locked up together over the weekend, with neither commenting on the substance of their talks. Meanwhile Patrick workers continue to work without yet receiving any pay for their efforts.

ABC 26/5/98, Financial Review 26/5/98

Government challenged in Parliament

The Labor Party has drafted a bill to ensure all employees who have been unlawfully sacked by an insolvent employer can be reinstated to jobs in related companies that are solvent, and receive all entitlements. Bob McMullan has challenged the Government to support the Bill.

In the Senate, the Labor Party and the Democrats are pushing the Government to table the secret reports, done at taxpayers expense for about $1.1 million. Labor Opposition leader in the Senate, John Faulkner said "the Opposition will be proceeding with its proposal to establish a select committee into why that material is not being provided and a range of other matters in relation to the waterfront dispute,"

ABC 26/5/98

Columbus Canada still at anchor off Los Angeles

25 May 1998,
"The Columbus Canada still sits at anchor and awaits an outcome in court sometime this week. It has now sat idle for two and half weeks and no end in sight. The court rulings should take place near the end of the week, at that time we will see the course of action to take. You can be assured that there will be more community protests to follow."

Email to Takver 26/5/98

The ship's German operator, Columbus Line, has filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board and is suing the union for nearly $5 million in damages. In Australia Peter Reith (minister for Industrial Confrontation) is drumming up the business effect of some of the scab loaded cargo being stranded, citing that future exports of gluten to the US may be affected. Of course he takes no responsibility for inciting Patrick to attempt to dismiss its workforce.

ABC 26/5/98, LA Times 24/5/98

San Fransisco - Oakland Bay Area Alert!

The scab-loaded ship Direct Kea will be arriving in the Port of Oakland on Thursday, May 28. Community picket or rally lines could start as early as 6am Thursday morning. Transportation from the West Oakland BART station to the docks will be provided. Call 510-845-0540 for updates.

Harry Bridges Action Brigade 26/5/98

More Liberal Party corruption allegations

Allegations are continuing against the office of the Resources Minister, Senator Parer. It is being alledged that his office supplied the Liberal Party with stationery worth thousands of dollars.

Also, backbencher Mr Tony Smith resigned from the Liberal Party, and will continue to sit in parliament as an independant. He cited disillusion with the party system, the proposed Goods and Service Tax package, and the governments Wik legislation. This is the third defection in three months for the Howard Government.

Sydney Morning Herald 26/5/98

Campaign against Rio Tinto over human rights, anti-unionism and environmental rape

The International Federation of Chemical, Energy and Mining Unions is co-ordinating a campaign against Rio Tinto, one of the world's largest mining companies. The Federation is claiming that the mining company is denying basic human rights for its workers. In a report being given to shareholders at Rio Tinto's annual general meeting on Wednesday, claims are made of abuse of human rights, workers rights and abuse of the environment.

For more information please see:
ICEM Rio Tinto Campaign Website

ABC 26/5/98


News Summary - Saturday 23 May

Double legal action initiated against Maritime Union

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has initiated legal action in the Federal Court against the Maritime Union under the Trade Practices ACT secondary boycott provisions. The ACCC alledges that the MUA and several of its union officials have organised international black bans on ships and local blockades of Patrick terminals. The ACCC is seeking in the Federal Court urgent injunctions against the alledged international boycott campaign, a declaration that the union breached the law, and findings of fact which would allow third party businesses to pursue damages.

Dr Alan Fels, the chairman of the ACCC, is under a false impression to assume the international boycott has been organised by the MUA, or that community pickets were organised by the Maritime Union. Unionists and working people worldwide do not need to be directed to understand the meaning of solidarity action. Dockers and community activists in Australia and worldwide can read the news (including this webpage) and act according to their own conscience. Indeed, this is what has happenned at the docks in Australia and for the last two weeks in Los Angeles. Community picket lines have been established and maintained by the community in the defence of workers and their unions.

The other legal action initiated is by Patrick and is an application for deregistration of the Maritime Union, and breaches under the Trade Practices Act about anti-competitive conduct. Patrick says the conduct it refers to includes illegal strikes, secondary boycotts, interference with contractual relations and with trade and businesses since 1995. To deregister the union Patrick has claimed that the MUA's attempt to assert a monopoly power, requiring any employee working on the docks to be a union member, has hindered the achievement and purpose of the Workplace Relations Act, providing a basis for deregistration. Chris Corrigan, company chairman said "We're being pursued in the Melbourne court for conspiracy and we have every legal right to file a cross-claim, considering the amount of damage that's been caused to our company and others,"

John Coombs from the MUA dismissed the claim as a media stunt. Greg Combet from the ACTU said "I'd say what's happened is that the Patrick's group is now starting to realise the gravity of the action that the union has brought in the proceedings. We see the cross-claim, which includes some allegation they are going to seek to try to deregister the maritime union, as a ridiculous proposition, a desperate one and one that's purely designed to frustrate the union's case in the Federal Court."

In the Federal Court, the union had a further minor victory. The creditors meeting of the labour hire companies will commence on Monday, but the administrators have agreed to immediately adjourn the meeting for a further two weeks.

(ABC 22/5/98, Financial Review 23/5/98)

Sea-Land solves Adelaide crisis, Newcastle breakthrough

Patrick's 40 odd Adelaide wharfies will be employed by SeaLand, in a move to expand its business. In Newcastle the MUA has succeeded in its bid to have former Patrick workers unload a vessel on the port. Today P&O Ports lost the contract to rival company Newcastle Stevedores, which has agreed to use the Patrick workers. Jeff Beesely from Newcastle Stevedores says Patrick workers have been treated unfairly in the dispute and he is happy to give them work.

(ABC 22/5/98)


News Summary - Friday 22 May

Banking Consortium implicated in anti-union conspiracy

Bankers told 10 days in advance of plan to dismiss workers

The Federal Court heard on Thursday that Chris Corrigan told his bankers in a meeting on March 27 that Patrick's labour hire companies could be starved of funds in a bid to oust the unionised workforce, and replace it with scab labour supplied primarily by the NFF backed company P&C Stevedores.

The meeting was held ten days before Patrick sent an army of security guards and attack dogs onto the wharves to evict its workers, and placed the companies into administration which terminated the contracts with the labour hire companies.

A diary note subpoenaed by the MUA from the ANZ Bank's head of business banking in NSW, Mr Peter Meers, details the meeting between Patrick and its bankers and discussed actions Patrick wanted to take to "extinguish" its labour contracts. Julian Burnside QC for the MUA said "it is a striking illustration of the problem... that the administrators are simply playing the hand given to them in the only way it can be played."

A further affidavit was produced by Julian Burnside which showed that Patrick Stevedores Holdings repaid $3.65 million of a $14 million debt to the labour companies on condition the administrator would not persue the rest of the debt until the creditors' meeting voted on a deed of arrangement.

A letter was also tabled by the MUA from the secretary of the Department of Workplace Relations, Dr Peter Shergold, saying that the Federal Government redundancy funds would not be available if the creditors' meeting was postponed. This letter was written after the MUA had applied for the creditors' meeting to be deferred.

The conspiracy against the Maritime Union continues to unfold. Justice Tony North of the Federal Court is being asked by the MUA to postpone the creditors' meeting until the conspiracy case against Patrick goes to trial. Justice North expressed concern over:

This must call into question the impartiality of the present administrators, and it reveals the pressure on them by Patrick and the Federal Government to take the solutions which have been planned by Patricks.
Refer to News Summary:
Lobby the Banks Campaign

(Financial Review 22/5/98)

Reith attacked on false claims

Peter Reith, Minister for Workplace Relations (and Industrial Warfare) was accused by Lindsay Tanner, Labor's Transport Spokesperson, of "falsely claiming" wharfies were being investigated by the Federal Police over ship hold cleaning practices. Peter Reith claimed in March that the Federal Police were investigating allegations of criminal activity, and prosecuting in one matter.

Lindsay Tanner applied under Freedom of Information laws for relevant documents held by the Australian Federal Police. The search did not find any documents relating to "any waterfront investigation carried out by the AFP".

One more example of the anti-union vilification campaign Peter Reith has carried out against maritime workers and their union.

(Financial Review 22/5/98)

P&O threatens workers in Newcastle and Adelaide

Mr Andrew Burgess, director of Australian and New Zealand Ports for P&O has said that MUA members who fail to turn up for their rostered shifts may have abandoned their employment.

Workers from P&O are refusing to cross community picket lines to work the ships. The union claims that ships like the Bay Bonanza in Newcastle which were previously contracted to Patrick, should be worked by Patrick MUA members. The Bay Bonanza has been stranded in Newcastle for a fortnight. Patrick has stated it has closed its operations in Adelaide and Newcastle. The union claims this is a tactic designed to get rid of its unionised workforce, and that the company intends to reopen using non-union contract workers.

The NSW Supreme court has scheduled a hearing of P&O Ports action against the MUA over bans and pickets in Newcastle and Adelaide for Monday 25 May.

(Financial Review 22/5/98)


News Summary - Thursday 21 May

Skirmishes continue in waterfront war

National Farmers Federation dips into fighting fund

The National Farmers Federation is understood to have passed a resolution at its annual general meeting authorising the use of fighting funds for legal actions against the MUA in the waterfront battle. Dr Wendy Craik, the NFF's executive director, refused to comment on the resolution.

(Financial Review 21/5/98)

Patrick at a loss with security

In a statement to the Australian Stock exchange Lang Corporation, parent company of the Patrick group, revealed it had incurred more than $13 million in abnormal expenses over the past six weeks. It seems most of this cost was the security guards hired to keep its workers locked out. What a way to waste money. Particularly as they announced a pre-tax loss of $1.6 million for the six months to March. Evidently, the Patrick group's stevedoring revenues for the month of April fell more than 45 per cent.

(Financial Review 21/5/98)

MUA urges deferral of creditors meeting

The MUA told the Federal Court on Tuesday that it would move to put off Monday's creditors' meeting and any decision on a deed of arrangement on the companies' futures until after the result of its Federal Court conspiracy action against Patrick chief executive Mr Chris Corrigan and Mr Reith. But the court has been told the Federal Government will not make redundancy payments available if the meeting is delayed.

Meanwhile, a public letter and fax campaign is underway to pressure the consortium of seven banks into supporting the union proposals at a creditors meeting.
Refer to News Summary: Lobby the Banks Campaign

(ABC 21/5/98)

P&O injunction against MUA members in Adelaide & Newcastle

P&O Ports yesterday won an injunction in the NSW Supreme Court preventing the MUA from interfering in operations in Newcastle and Adelaide. The MUA has picketed the two P&O terminals to try to stop former Patrick contracts going to P&O.

During the lockout, Patrick workers in Newcastle successfully stopped ships being worked by scabs. In Adelaide, Patrick senior management dismissed its local Manager and a supervisor when they refused to carry out the dismissal orders against workers. Patrick closing down operations in these two ports can be seen as a vendetta against these workers. P&O are only too happy to put the boot in when required.

(Sydney Morning Herald 20/5/98)

Report on Patrick describes restructure as 'uncommercial'

The co-administrators of the Patrick Labour Hire companies, Mr Bill Butterell and Mr Peter Brook, have sent a confidential report of their investigations to the Australian Securities Commission. The administrators found two parts of the company restructure transaction - a share buyback and the sale of businesses and net assets - were reasonable. But they questioned the third element - the change to labour hire agreements. The administrators described as "onerous" the termination clauses in labour hire agreements between the Patrick operating arms and the labour companies, and said establishment of the agreements last September may have been uncommercial.

(Sydney Morning Herald 19/5/98)

Dubai Passports implicate ministerial staff

A Sydney Morning Herald Freedom of Information enquiry has produced letters which support Andrew Harris, Wells and Kilfoyle in their statements which alledge senior government involvement in the Dubai affair. The letters detail that local passport offices should contact the head of the passports division in Canberra, Mr Graeme Middleweek, and mention Mr Downer's chief of staff, Mr Bill Tweddell. This adds veracity to the account by Fynwest's director, Mr Mike Wells, that he was given the referrals by Patrick's chief executive, Mr Chris Corrigan, who said he had obtained the names from the "Prime Minister's office".

(Sydney Morning Herald 19/5/98)

Scab loaded ships list

A list of scab loaded ships is currently being circulated by email, and is available from: Harry Bridges Brigade

It contains the following introductory message:


Based upon my own research of media reports I hope to publish a consolidated list of ships handled by non-union labour employed by Patrick. Please watch this page for details in the coming week or so...


News Summary - Tuesday 19 May

Columbus Canada still stopped at Los Angeles

We were awakened on Sunday night to pass along the word that the Columbus ship would attempt to leave anchorage this morning at 0600 to come to berth. The call went out at the last minute and we were able to organize 50 - 100 community protesters to await the ships arrival. The docking orders were again canceled after the community support started picketing. Columbus line is in court today seeking an injunction to return to work, damages of five million dollars for secondary boycotts, and the issue of a writ against sympathizers. To this point the ship is still at anchor. There has apparently been talk of moving it to Mexico for off loading but that has yet to be done.

Diane Middleton, San Pedro resident and one of the community picketers said "I think there are times in life when you have to take a stand, and this is one of those times. If employers try to fire union workers and give those jobs to scabs, then a price will be paid. The price this time is that the Columbus Canada will be a ship without a home until it's sent back to Australia and loaded by union workers,"

It seems protests are being videoed by the company in an attempt to bolster their court case. The calling in of the ship may have been false orders designed to video members of the community.

In other developments a further scab loaded ship, the Direct Kea is on its way to Oakland, California. Apparently it will now arrive Wednesday morning early.

For further information on local communities organising against scab loaded ships, please visit the following web sites:
Harry Bridges Brigade:
ILWU Solidarity Page:

(Emails to Takver 19/5/98, LA Times 17/5/98)

Pressure the Banks Campaign

Next Monday 25 May creditors will meet and decide on the future of the Patrick wharfies in 4 labour companies in the hands of two administrators. A consortium of 7 banks are major creditors.

Campaign has started to pressure the banks to support the MUA position. Please Lobby the banks that can influence the administrators' decision to keep the Patrick Labour Hire companies trading (and employing MUA members!):

One simple action that can be taken while waiting for a further call to arms in the waterfront dispute, is to send a letter to your bank (if they are one of the ones involved in the financing arrangements with the Patrick Labour Hire companies - see below) urging them to do whatever they can to keep the companies trading (and therefore keep them employing MUA members in accordance with the High Court injunction).

You can use our text of a draft letter. Of course you are free to amend or add to the draft. Just copy and paste to a wordprocessing document, and add your name and address at the bottom. Send by mail or fax.

Do you have a bank account, credit card account, insurance or superannuation fund with one of the following financial institutions? If so, you can send a letter by fax to your financial institution(s) urging them to keep the Labour Hire Companies trading.

ANZ Banking Group
National Australia Bank
Colonial Mutual
Citibank Ltd.
Societe Generale
Bankers Trust Australia Ltd
(Source: Leftlink)


News Summary - Monday 18 May

Columbus Line preparing legal action against US Dockers Union

Columbus Line was taking legal action against the international Longshore and Warehouse Union over the weekend in an attempt to discharge its containership the Columbus Canada at Los Angeles. Doug Webster, a spokesman for Columbus Line in the US told DCN the company's attorneys were preparing papers for legal action but details of the specifics of their suit would not be available until filing.

(Daily Commercial News 18/5/98)

Corrigan offers to cut conditions

The administrators of the labour hire firms are saying they must have access to the Government's waterfront redundancy package (under the Stevedoring Levy (Collection) Bill 1998) if the companies are to avoid liquidation.

Next Monday creditors will meet and vote on a proposal by the administrators for a month to assess what manning levels and work practices are required to qualify for the package.

Patrick has offered to re-hire 650 of the 1,400 sacked MUA workers, mostly as crane operators, machinery drivers, clerks and team leaders, as part of an enterprise agreement with salaries ranging from $38,000 to $60,000 a year for a 35-hour week, and a productivity bonus. 200 further positions in maintenance, security and cleaning would be subcontracted. The Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) has rejected the proposal.

MUA Secretary John Coombs said about the offer: "He's got no interest in a negotiated outcome. His only interest is to avoid our court case and attempt to put this package through as some sort of temptation to the workforce. The workers will reject it in my view unanimously and we'll proceed to the Federal Court on the conspiracy charges."

At Fremantle, the state secretary of the union, Terry Buck, said attempts to organise a meeting of members was being frustrated by security guards who are denying union officials access to Patrick's terminal.


News Summary - Saturday 16 May

Prime Minister shown as top man in waterfront strategy

The Prime Minister, "Honest" John Howard, featured at the top of a flow chart on the reporting strategy for waterfront reform. This document and other information from two secret reports commissioned by the Government were released on Friday by the Financial Review. The documents are from reports prepared by Dr Stephen Webster and David Trebeck. They name, not only the Prime Minister, but also senior departmental heads and advisors.

Dr Webster, a former naval historian, is now a senior advisor to Peter Reith, Minister for Industrial Confrontation. Both reports detailed the need to provoke industrial unrest on the waterfront for a major strike so that a non-union workforce could be established on the docks.

The ACTU is seeking to subpoena these reports for the Conspiracy case against Reith, Patrick and the National Farmers Federation. Similarly, the Senate, the Federal Upper House of Parliament, has voted for the reports to be tabled by the Government. The Government is refusing.

Picture: Government reporting strategy for waterfront reform The Prime Minister is featured at the top of the chart, followed by the Ministers for Transport(John Sharp) and Industrial Relations(Peter Reith). Then the ministerial advisors which includes Prime Ministerial advisor Arthur Sinodinos; Greg Bondar, former Executive director of the Australian Chamber of Shipping and Advisor to Transport Minister John Sharp; and Wilson as advisor to Workplace Relations Minister Peter Reith. Next follow the departmental secretaries - Moore-Wilton from Prime Minister and Cabinet, Allan Hawke from Transport, and David Rosalky from Workplace Relations. After that come the special advisors and secretariat as part of the Waterfront Taskforce, which would include Trebeck and Webster.

The first report by ACIL was at a cost of $60,000 in May 1996. The report had to wait until the Government's anti-union legislation was in place in early 1997 - the Workplace Relations Act.

The contents of the ACIL report were described to the AFR by those familiar with its contents as "explosive". The key points of the report were:

ACIL prepared a second report without the necessity for the tendering process, citing a need for "special knowledge and familiarity with the previous task" and "the need for sensitive handling of this task requires a strict 'need to know' approach and this adds to the requirement that the work be carried through by ACIL Economics and Policy Pty Ltd."

The consultants contracts stipulated a clause requiring anyone working on the reports to sign copies of the section of the Crimes Act dealing with official secrets.

A futher report in Saturdays paper suggests that P&O Ports were also at one stage considering dismissal of its workforce if a national strike eventuated over the sale of the Australian National Line, owned by the Australian Government. This report is based upon handwritten notes by Peter Reith recording a conversation with then Transport Minister John Sharp on March 20 1996.

A confidential briefing paper prepared for Peter Reith, John Sharp, Patrick and P&O Ports last March (1997) was titled "Summary Dismissal of Federal Award Employees Engaged in Unprotected Industrial Action". This paper details strategies for dismissal of the workforce, and some of the pitfalls to avoid. In one part it suggests alternative restructuring options and states:

"One possibility would be to outsource the running of operations, with responsibility for operations being contracted out. Another would be for the stevedore to engage a labour agency which provided workers on an 'as required basis', without a direct legal relationship ever existing between the stevedore and the worker."

(Financial Review 15/5/98, 16/5/98)

Justice Beach exacts vengeance on MUA

You may recall that Victorian Supreme Court Justice Beach, when approached by Patricks on Monday 20th April, granted an injunction against any members of the public of being anywhere near Patrick's Melbourne terminals. The order was so broad it made a mockery of the law. A court of appeal successfully overturned the severity of such a ridiculus order and ruled it only applied to MUA members. Justice Beach had ordered that the MUA place quarter page adds in 3 newspapers advising the public of the injunction. These adds did not appear until last week, at least two weeks after the injunction.

The "good" judge found the MUA to be in contempt of court, and is hearing arguments on penalties. A possible precedent on penalties could arise from the Mudginberri dispute in 1985 when the meat workers' union was fined $10,000 plus $2,000 a day for contempt of a Federal Court interim injunction.

Justice Beach, I heard about your injunction, and then happily went down to the picket line as a member of the community to support workers who were trying to uphold Justice North's original order for reinstatement made on the 8th April. People were gathered at the community assembly to support justice for workers, if necessary with nonviolent civil disobedience. Patrick Stevedoring were openly flouting Justice North's injunction.

Maritime Union submits claims for Patrick Appeal delays

On Thursday the MUA formally demanded that Patrick pay around $1.6 million for the wages lost by its members because of the two-week delay in implementing Federal Court reinstatement orders while the company pursued appeals all the way to the High Court.Undertakings were given by Patrick to the full Federal Court and the High Court that it would meet any damage suffered by the MUA as a result of the original orders being stayed pending the outcomes of the appeal.

In other moves, the Maritime union is seeking control of the creditors committee of the labour companies. To do this, the union will be lodging a $400 million damages claim against Patrick in the near future. If the labour companies are liquidated, the labour contacts can be put out to tender. Similarly, the administrators have the power to outsource the labour. There are at least four contract labour companies interested in suppling labour: Skilled Engineering, Manpower Australia, the National Farmers Federation backed Producers and Consumers Stevedores.

On the International Picket Line 16 May

In Osaka on 11 May, hundreds of demonstrating Japanese trade unionists met the Australian Endeavour to protest about the use of non-union stevedoring labour to work the ship in Australia. Similar gatherings took place in Yokohama on 8 May and 10 May in Nagoya. The MSC Singapore was also met by Japanese dockers in Yokohama.

No further news on the fugitive vessel Colombus Canada which was last reported at anchor off Los Angeles unable to unload is cargo. The CGM Gauguin was diverted from Bombay last week after ITF affiliated dockers unions there warned the vessel would be targeted. The vessel was worked by Indonesion dockers under protest who said the ship was badly stowed and unsafe. ITF Press release 12 May

News Comment - Saturday 16 May

Waterfront Politics - Indonesia erupts against Suharto


John Howard, Australia's relaxed and comfortable Prime Minister and Peter Reith, the Federal Minister for workplace warfare have miscalculated badly in their attempts to introduce non-union labour on the wharves. In one of the most amateurish political displays since Federation, they have managed to set the cat among the contract pigeons.

Alarm bells began ringing even among diehard coalition supporters when Australians began to understand the ramifications of Patrick's legal pirouettes. One hundred thousand workers marched in Melbourne last week because they understood that employers, both in the private and public sector, could legally establish insolvent companies that could be sent down to the bottom of the harbour anytime the parent company found it convenient to do so.

Contract workers and workers who have signed Enterprise Bargaining Agreements realised that their contracts are not worth the paper they are written on. Today almost every worker both in the unionised and non-unionised workforce doesn't share the Prime Minister's comfortable and relaxed position. Everyone now understands that any employer, can at any time, legally structure their business so that they can circumvent laws that have been passed by parliament to safeguard peoples' job security and in the bargain not pay workers back pay and entitlements when they are sacked.

If John Howard had even the slightest intention of keeping his election promise of using his extraordinary parliamentary majority to create a relaxed and comfortable society, he would make it his governments priority to introduce urgent legislation into parliament to prevent the Patrick's fiasco from occurring again. Examining John Howard's past parliamentary record, the chances his government will pass legislation to improve workers security is tantamount to asking Dracula to give back the blood he's stolen from his victims.

Suharto the Butcher must go


Contrary to all expectations, student protests in Indonesia have increased in the face of severe government clampdown. The conditions attached to the Indonesian International Monetary Fund bailout have signalled the beginning of the end for Suharto, the father of half a million dead. As Suharto takes his place in a developing nation's conference in Egypt, students are spearheading the resistance against Suharto the Butcher and the International Monetary Fund.

Suharto the Butcher, the regions if not the worlds foremost exponent of crony capitalism (what belongs to the state is mine) is facing the first serious challenge to his rule in over thirty years. The rest of the country waits in the wings while Indonesian students take on the military machine. To date the reaction to Suharto's rule has been confined to student circles, in the last twenty four hours prominent Muslim opposition leaders have publicly articulated their opposition to Suharto and have demanded his resignation.

Although most Indonesians are not involved in overt resistance to the Suharto military machine, it's possible, just possible that the military will be unable or more likely unwilling to stop students challenging the legitimacy of the Indonesian military dictatorship. Suharto has become an embarrassment not only to his people, but the International Monetary Fund and world leaders including Bill Clinton.

The stage is set for the overthrow of the Suharto regime and the possible disintegration of the Indonesian state, an artificial colonial entity. Whether the I.M.F. and regional governments, including Australia and the United States are able to replace the Suharto regime with a government that's friendly to their objectives and the I.M.F.'s objectives is difficult to say. Whether the student revolt is embraced by the Indoenesian people and establish as a government that caters to their needs, not the needs of the corporate world, will depend on how far the revolt will spread. Either way Suharto the Butcher's days are numbered.

JOSEPH TOSCANO (Libertarian Workers for a Self-Managed Society).
Anarchist Age Weekly Review Number 299 11th - 17th May, 1998.

For more information on Indonesia please go to my Indonesia Links Page


News Summary - Wednesday 13 May

Los Angeles stops Scab ship unloading

Report from:


Los Angeles and Long Beach area activists have succesfully prevented the Columbus Canada, which is loaded with scab cargo, from unloading in LA once again. Local activists mobilized between 200 and 300 community protesters on Monday afternoon May 11 on 2 hours notice.

The mobilization caused management to leave the ship anchored off the coast of San Pedro. The ship has been anchored offshore since 6 AM Saturday when community activists mobilized 1500 protestors to close the LA docks.


After being repelled by a demonstration of 1500 strong Saturday, the scab-loaded Columbus Canada retreated to the Long Beach harbor. Word has just arrived that the shipping company will attempt again to bring the ship into the Port of Los Angeles Matson Company terminal for unloading tonight.

An emergency alert has been sounded and people are being mobilized to confront the company at the shift change. Under the ILWU contract, dock workers do not have to cross a picketline if they believe that there is a threat to their health and safety. The contract allows the employer to seek "instant" arbitration (within a couple of hours). Yesterday, the arbitrator ruled that there was no health or safety risk. ILWU members, however, did not enter the terminal. Matson, in fact, in the face of the mass demonstration, locked its gates.

Four More Scab loaded ships due to arrive at American ports

12 May 1998. The London-based International Transport Workers Federation last night warned that another four container ships en route from Australia to the US could face bans by American waterfront unions by the end of this week.

ITF spokesman David Cockroft said the four ships, all loaded by Patrick's non-union workforce in Australia, were expected to reach US west coast destinations in the next few days.

Mr Cockroft said it was likely the union action against the Columbus Canada would continue. "I imagine the bans on the Columbus Canada won't end at Longbeach," Mr Cockroft said. "The ship is likely to get a similar reception when it goes to San Francisco, Seattle and Vancouver."

It is thought there are 23 ships which were loaded by non-union workers employed by Patrick between April 7 and May 4 this year. The shipping companies involved include Columbus, Mediterranean Shipping, the CGM Group, ANL and Coral Sea Shipping.

Mr Cockroft made it plain that caution was needed because of threatened legal action by Australia's competition watchdog Allan Fels. "The legal situation in Australia at the moment means we don't have a definitive list," Mr Cockroft said. "What we do know is that four ships which we believe are part of the (non-union) operation are likely to arrive soon on the US west coast. But what happens when they arrive we don't know."

P&O Ports seeks 'anti-strike' order

P&O Ports is applying more pressure on the Maritime Union. On Tuesday 12 May, P&O Ports sought an order against future stoppages and bans by the Maritime Union at all its terminals. The six-month order is sought under section 127 of the Workplace Relations Act and would prohibit the MUA and members employed by P&O or subsidiaries from engaging in any industrial action or any "strike ban or limitation on the performance of normal work".

At least 24 MUA officials would be barred from "aiding, abetting, counselling, procuring or inducing members of the MUA" employed at the P&O ports to take industrial action under the order sought from the Australian Industrial Relations Commission.

The application is similar to a claim by Rio Tinto's subsidiary Coal & Allied last year at its Hunter Valley No 1 mine. Coal & Allied's claim was granted by an AIRC full bench, but limited to wildcat stoppages, excluding national and district strikes by the coal-mining union and safety-related industrial action.

P&O Ports have hired staff from Rio Tinto. Mr Ben Wicks, a P&O industrial officer was formerly employee relations manager at the Hunter Valley No 1 mine. Mr Grant Gilfillen, general manager of CTAL's Port Botany container terminal, is also from Rio Tinto's Hunter Valley No 1 mine.

(Source: Financial Review 13/5/98)

Corrigan admits on tape dismissal was 'partly illegal'

In Federal Parliament the Government came under concerted attack by members of the Labor Party opposition. Mr Lindsay Tanner, opposition spokesperson on transport, quoted the Prime Minister, Mr Howard, who said the Government would support Corrigan and Patrick "to the hilt, provided they act within the law".

Mr Tanner then asked Mr Howard: "Are you aware of a meeting on 31 January 1998 between Corrigan, Wells and Kilfoyle, where the transcript shows that Kilfoyle asked whether the action being planned was illegal? Corrigan replied, "No, no. Well, partly illegal'.

"Will you continue to back to the hilt an operation which, according to Corrigan himself, is partly illegal?"

Typically sidestepping the question Mr Howard did not answer the allegation directly, saying that he was not interested in Opposition legal opinions, and remained committed to waterfront reform.

In the senate, Senator John Faulkner accused Mr Corrigan of having lied to the public, the media and the Government, and perjured himself before the Industrial Relations Commission, about his involvement in the Dubai venture. Further, that Mr Corrigan had lied in an interview on the ABC's AM program on December 4 last year when he denied any knowledge of the Dubai training scheme, and also lied in interviews with the Sydney Morning Herald the same day when he said he had provided no money for Dubai, and lied again, under oath, to the Industrial Relations Commission.

Senator Faulkner said that the Minister for Workplace Relations, Mr Reith, was either a "lying, conniving co-conspirator with corporate cowboys" Mr Corrigan and the chairman of Patricks's parent company, Lang Corp, Mr Peter Scanlon, "or a dupe".

(Source: Sydney Morning Herald 13/5/98)

Quote of the week

'I defy anybody to go and get passports for 76 current and ex-serving soldiers to go to Dubai next week and not have Foreign Affairs and ASIO all over them.'
Andrew Harris, quoted in SMH, 9 May 1998


News Summary - Tuesday 12 May

Government anti-union campaign continues against wharfies

The battle for the waterfront continues. It is far from over with a potential to involve the whole Australian union movement in support action. The battle has entered a "cold war" period, with skirmishes here and there. Patrick workers are only back at work as a result of a court interim order, pending the conspiracy case in the Federal Court.

Peter Reith maintains his daily campaign of lies and distortions and vengeance against the MUA. His leadership aspirations maybe in tatters now, but he still holds the reigns of power in his ministry. Reith's competitor for the Liberal Party leadership stakes, Treasurer Peter Costello, has handed down an election budget with few surprises which will please the business community and enhance his leadership prospects. Costello may appear a moderate, but his background is as a corporate lawyer. His legal services were often used by the National Farmers Federation in the 1980s in union busting actions in Federal and High Court cases. He was a joint founder and has actively contributed to conferences of the right wing H.R. Nicholls Society. As a sample, read "Legal Remedies Against Trade Union Conduct in Australia" ( http://www.exhibit.com.au/cgi-bin/mfs/03/nichvol1/vol16cha.htm)

"Honest" John Howard, our Prime Minister still backs Patrick to the hilt, even though Patrick is alleged to have acted outside the law.

The Maritime Union is desperately fighting against the introduction of non-union workers on the wharves. The National Farmers Federation gained a toe hold in late January with the sub leasing of Webb Dock from Patrick, allowing it to start training scab labour for the waterfront. Those workers, although poorly trained, have now had one month direct experience as scab labour working ships around Australia.

Peter Reith is attempting to bust the MUA's monopoly by imposing outsourcing on the union and the administrator of the Patrick Labour companies as a prerequisite for releasing money for redundancies. The scab labour from the National Farmers Federation company, PCS Stevedoring is waiting in the wings to undercut waterfront conditions and salaries - in effect to ensure third world labour conditions on the Australian waterfront.

Greg Combet, from the ACTU, dismissed these conditions as further evidence of an alleged conspiracy between Patrick, the Government and others to break the union. "It is further evidence that the deed of company arrangement is intended to be the culmination of the unlawful conspiracy against the MUA and its members. The union will be pursuing massive damages as a consequence of this conspiracy."

The gaining of public funds is critical to making the companies viable, as the corporate restructure undertaken by Chris Corrigan last September left them with no funds to pay for retrenchments. The administrators must secure a deed of arrangement for ongoing trading or wind the companies up by May 25, the statutory deadline.

P&O Ports pressuring Union

P & O Ports is pressuring the Maritime union and is seeking up to 450 redundancies from its 1300 unionised workforce on the wharves. Mr Richard Hein, the Managing Director of P&O Ports, played down earlier reports on redundancies and said "It is our intention to negotiate an agreement with the union to achieve fundamental change. It's not our intention to do anything other than actively and reasonably pursue our discussions with the MUA."

Reports say P&O is seeking: redundancies; outsourcing of some work such as cleaning jobs; limit overtime by the introduction of an average salary; and change the rosters for crane operators.

The MUA national secretary, Mr John Coombs, said the union was not prepared to make any concessions. He said while the company had discussed the proposed form of new enterprise agreements with the union in general terms, there had been no discussion on redundancies or work reforms. He reacted angrily to reports that the company would use the full force of the Workplace Relations Act against the MUA if it could not achieve its objectives via negotiation. "Dealing with one (Chris) Corrigan is enough. I don't intend to embrace any others."

P&O Ports is eager to use the $250 million redundancy fund of the Government.

Patrick obstructs in Adelaide, Newcastle & Townsville

MUA South Australian secretary Rick Newlyn claimed victory at the docks this morning after overnight negotiations convinced P&O and Sims Metal to hand over the stevedoring work of the Handy Althea to major rival Sealand, to end the four day impasse which prevented the ship's loading. P&O MUA members had refused to load the ship, given that the work was originally contracted to Patrick. Up to 200 people have been maintaining a picket over the weekend to prevent the ship being loaded. Sealand will use Patrick employees for working the ship. Sealand's general manager Andy Andrews predicts ongoing work for many of the 44 sacked Patrick workers in Adelaide.

Meanwhile, in Newcastle the Maritime Union (MUA) says Patrick Stevedores is responsible for the delay in unloading the Bay Bonanza, berthed in Newcastle since last Thursday. Patrick has sub-contracted P&O Ports to handle the ship, but P&O workers have refused to cross the picket line. Patrick employees are prepared to unload the ship.

Patrick has blacklisted three workers in Townsville which has resulted in MUA members refusing to unload a ship carrying 500 cars in Townsville.

Scab loaded ships meet union & community protests

Several ships have been delayed in New Guinea. The CGM Gauguin has been diverted from Bombay. When the Indonesian dockers unloaded the scab ship Gaugan (after some protest) they found the containers had been badly loaded, unsafe etc.

The Columbus Canada continues at anchor off Long Beach, Los Angeles. It attempted to berth on Saturday and was met by a 1500 strong community picket. The picket at the Matson terminal in Los Angeles continues while the vessel is in the vicinity. Community and union activists have also been alerted at other ports on the West Coast of the U.S.A., to mobilise community protests if the ship attempts to dock and unload. The ship is carrying a large quantity of deep-frozen meat, mainly beef, which is being kept refrigerated onboard.


News Summary - Sunday 10 May

Los Angeles Longshore workers refuse to cross Community Picket

The Columbus Canada, loaded by Patrick Stevedore scabs in Australia, arrived at Matson, Berth 208 Terminal Island in the Port of Los Angeles on Saturday, May 9. Before the 8 A.M. shift began, ILWU Locals 13 and 63 longshore workers, themselves angry at Patrick's firing last month of all its 2,000 wharfies, members of the Maritime Union of Australia, refused to cross a mass solidarity picket line of some 1,500 labor and harbor community activists.

Demonstrators chanted "We support the MUA; No scab cargo in L.A." and "MUA here to stay; No scab cargo in L.A." have effectively shut dock operations down.

Steve Stallone, a spokesman with the International Longshore & Warehouse Union (ILWU)- North America's second-largest dockworkers' union , said the Los Angeles dockworkers were not on strike but instead were honoring a picket line outside the Port of Los Angeles' Matson Terminal. Stallone said the picketers represented "not a union demonstration, but a community demonstration" in support of their Australian counterparts. "This community knows it lives on the good living that longshoremen make. They also know that if the union in Australia can be busted, then the ILWU can be busted."

Last month, the ILWU asked its 60,000 members to boycott Australian beef and produce because of efforts by the National Farmers Federation to bust the dockworkers' union, the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA). Steve Stallone said that the ILWU was now considering the status of its boycott.

South News May 9

Farmers support Melbourne wharfies

A group of Victorian farmers travelled to Melbourne on Sunday morning to show support for waterfront workers. About two hundred kilograms of meat was donated to the wharfies for a barbeque at the dock. The farmers are at odds with the National Farmers Federation, which they say is not looking after their best interests, and is too concerned with setting up a stevedoring business.

(Source: ABC 10/5/98)

Fremantle wharfies return to work

A crowd of 400 maritime union members and their supporters gathered at the wharf on Sunday morning to celebrate the return to work, as police stood by and watched the crowd march on Patrick's front gate. Despite claims of victory in the dispute, the workers have not been paid for a month and have agreed to work without pay for another four weeks.

(Source: ABC 10/5/98)

Port Adelaide obstruction

Patrick's on Friday deliberately defied the reinstatement orders by refusing MUA members to commence work on a scrap-metal ship this weekend. A peaceful assembly was maintained over the weekend at Port Adelaide. Negotiations between the MUA, the United Trades and Labour Council (UTLC) and P&O management have failed and the ship remains unloaded. UTLC president Stephen Spence says this dispute is not as straightforward as initially thought.

(Source: Leftlink 8/5/98, ABC 10/5/98)

Lismore - regional support meeting success

About 80 people attended a public talk in support of the Maritime Union of Australia in Lismore, New South Wales (Australia) last Thursday night. A Brisbane crane driver, Mick Fulton, explained the truth about pay and productivity and gave us a bit of an insight into the unpleasant working conditions and long and anti-social hours they are compelled to work.

Eight local speakers also addressed the meeting including local union organisers, local farmers, academics from Southern Cross University, and retired people. A collection at the end of the evening raised over $200, which was given to the Brisbane wharfies.

(Source: Email to Takver)


News Summary - Friday 8 May

Wharfies return to work around Australia

Wharfies returned jubilantly to work at East Swanson Dock in Melbourne on Thursday evening, thus ending the four week picket of the Patrick terminal. Other ports which have returned to work include Port Botany in Sydney, Webb Dock in Melbourne, and Burnie and Bell Bay in Tasmania. About nine or ten thousand containers are estimated to be stranded on the wharves, which will take a week to clear. The Brisbane terminals are expected to resume full operations mid-afternoon Friday; security issues are still to be resolved in Perth and Townsville; and there is uncertainty surrounding Patrick's future in Adelaide. Patrick says it will not be reopening its Newcastle port and its Tasmanian operations are only re-opening temporarily to meet existing contracts.

A move by Patrick yesterday to terminate its labour supply agreements with the four companies in the group which employ MUA members prompted the union to back down on its earlier insistence that there would be no return to work until the goon squads were removed.

(Source: ABC 8/5/98, Financial Review 8/5/98)

Sea-Land chief attacks Government over waterfront levy

Captain Andy Andrews, in charge of SeaLand which presently operates in Adelaide and will soon open a container terminal in Brisbane, has attacked the Governments $250 million redundancy fund as being an inequitable subsidy for its competitors.

(Source: Financial Review 8/5/98)

The dirt from Dubai implicates P.M.

In a sworn affidavit Mike Wells of Fynwest Pty Ltd, one of the organisers of the Dubai debacle to train serving and former army officers as scab labour on the waterfront, claims a Government adviser (Dr Stephen Webster) rang him about the exercise last July. Mike Wells says Dr Stephen Webster, now an adviser to Workplace Relations Minister Peter Reith but then a Government consultant on waterfront reform, told him he was doing a "special job" for the Prime Minister.

Passports for the recruits were organised with the assistance of the Prime Ministers Office. One wonders what the involvement of the Foreign Affairs Minister, Alexander Downer, was in all this. Ian MacLachlan, the Defence Minister disclaims any knowledge of serving military personnel being employed by a private company. And our beloved Prime Minister has disclaimed all responsibility or knowledge of the whole affair. Peter Reith belligerently stated: "As far as Dubai is concerned, we didn't know about it but it wasn't illegal and so what."

Either we have a pack of imbeciles leading our country who don't know what their personal staffs are up to - which must be called gross incompetence at the least, or they are all up to their necks in the sewerage that is now being exposed for all to see. Either way, these people smell bad. Nothing more than a Royal commission with wide powers of investigation and access to all relevant cabinet documents and "secret reports" will clear the air now. If a full public enquiry is not initiated, the smell from this affair will linger till long after the next election.

For full reports check out The Age online Dubai Special:

The Age: Howard linked to Dubai plan: claim

* The Age: "If I tell a blatant lie ... "

The Age: `Special job' claim is most damning entry

The Age: Ministers deny they knew of Dubai plan

The Age: The 158 pages that read like a spy thriller

The Age: Central role for adviser: affidavit

The Age: Patrick bankrolled Dubai: documents

The Age: `They shouldn't have goaded us'

* The Age: A strategy doomed from the start

The Age: PM's department helped to `ensure prompt issue'

The Age: The offers, the denial and an angry phone call

The Age: Michael Wells full affidavit

(See especially the asterisked articles)

Government under attack from International Unions

The International Confederation of Free Trade Unions has lodged a complaint with the International Labour Organisation over the Government's handling of the waterfront dispute, alleging nine breaches of Australia's obligations under international labour treaties.

The allegations include:

Tim Noonan, from the ICFTU said "We see this as the most serious attack on trade union rights that has happened in any OECD country for some time. This is right at the top of our agenda and we know that some governments are concerned about it."

This follows a previous criticism of the Governments Workplace Relations Act by an ILO judicial committee.

(Source: Financial Review 8/5/98)


News Summary - Wednesday 6 May

100,000 people march in support of the MUA

Photoessay on the Melbourne Rally to be loaded soon!
Melbourne Rally. (190KB)

Over 100,000 people marched today in Melbourne in support of the Maritime Union of Australia and against the Federal Governments anti-union Industrial Relations laws.

100,000 people gather at Trades Hall for the MUAPeople gathered outside Trades Hall (known as the Workers Parliament) on the corner of Lygon Street and Victoria Street Carlton at 10am.

Various messages of support were heard from the British Trade Union Congress general secretary John Monks and The Ethnic Communities Council of Australia.

Workers Anger at Peter Reith - 6th MayThe march then left Trades Hall with Patrick wharfies leading. The day was fine and mild - an excellent day for a protest march. People were exuberant about being part of such a large rally and angry at the government for its duplicity in the attempted dismissal of Patrick workers. At the corner of Flinders Street and Swanston Walk a stage was set up where various speakers including Leigh Hubbard of the Victorian Trades Hall Council, Jennie George from the ACTU, and Derek Corrigan, brother to Patrick boss Chris Corrigan, addressed the huge crowd.

A minute of silence was observed by the rally for Fred Brock, a retired wharfie who died on April 17 while visiting Japan and campaigning with Japanese dockers.

The speeches outside Flinders Street Station were broadcast live on Community Radio Station, 3CR.

(Source: ABC 6/5/98, South News 6/5/98)

Wharfies refuse to work with company Goons

Wharfies have refused to go to work on the wharves with the company goons that invaded the docks on April 7. Safety concerns have been raised about working in an intimidating environment - with attack dogs that could barely be controlled by their trainers.

Mick O'Leary from the Maritime Union arrived at Melbourne's East Swanson Dock for the 7:00am shift today. "We are not going back to work right at this point in time and a little bit more patience. They haven't removed the guard dogs and the security and we're actually heading back to the Federal Court this morning to seek an injunction against them and get the things removed. It's criminal there are ships here, there are containers to be moved out, we have people ready to go. We have the High Court decision in our favour and the sooner they do it the better off everyone will be,"

(Source: ABC 6/5/98)

More allegations against Government

Former SAS officers Mike Wells and Peter Kilfoyle of Fynwest Pty Ltd have told Channel Nine a Federal Government advisor, Dr Stephen Webster, urged them both to contact Patrick chief Chris Corrigan about the Dubai training of non-union labour last year.

Labor Opposition leader Kim Beazley says Peter Reith and the Federal Government must come clean. He has called for an inquiry into the Governments collusion and for Peter Reith to stand aside while an inquiry is undertaken. "The Australian people have been greviously misled. There is a collusion here between governments and others on illegal activity on the sacking of workers, these are sufficient grounds for inquiry and sufficient grounds for ministers to stand aside while that inquiry proceeds."

(Source: ABC 6/5/98)

Reith rejected by Adelaide unionists

A crowd of about 40 angry unionists gathered outside the Adelaide Convention Centre, where Workplace Relations Minister Peter Reith spoke this afternooon to a business lunch of the South Australian Employers Chamber. Union leaders, including the MUA's South Australian secretary, Rick Newlyn, have addressed the crowd, calling for Mr Reith's resignation or sacking.

(Source: ABC 6/5/98)


News Summary - Tuesday 5 May

Wharfies return to work - Union under pressure

Tuesday was a day of negotiation and reflection on the High Court Judgement. On the superficial level, the union won the reinstatement of all its workers. Another moral win. But the deeper implications of the court judgement mean that the union will be under a lot of pressure to negotiate reduced staffing levels and to accept reduced working conditions. The continuing threat is the introduction of non-union labour. That is what Peter Reith is still scheming - to break the union labour monopoly at any cost, and to reduce working conditions on the waterfront. The final result of this fight must still be in doubt.

The High Court ruled that the administrators had wide decision making powers over who to employ and under what conditions in an endeavour to keep the labour companies solvent. The Administrators will be under enormous pressure to run the labour contracts efficiently or to liquidate the companies. Almost certainly there will be redundancies. Under what conditions are still to be negotiated with the union. In the meantime, little attention has been focussed on the grossly inefficient management practices on the waterfront. Peter Costello, the Treasurer, (and competitor to Peter Reith in the Liberal Party leadership stakes) has alluded to such inefficiencies while keeping his distance from the muck sticking to Peter Reith. Peter Reith continues to lambast the workers for rorting the system, with no mention of the other side of the coin - an inefficient management that cannot run its business effectively or efficiently but has to hide its own mistakes through violent confrontation and misrepresentation of its own workers.

Corrigan has authorised $3.6 million in start up funds to be transferred to the labour companies. And why not? At this stage he has little to lose and everything to gain by putting the union in a difficult position. Reith has threatened to make the Government backed $250 million redundancy pool unavailable unless non-union labour is hired by the administrators.

The MUA is taking action in the Federal Court to have the administrators removed. The MUA will also strenuously resist any push by Patrick's or the Federal Government for massive redundancies and the use of non-union labour, while its conspiracy action against Patrick continues in the courts. The conspiracy case could prove extremely embarrasing for a government heading towards an election.

Two weeks ago Peter Scanlon, principal shareholder in Lang Corporation and the man behind the scenes of the Patrick corporate strategy, stated in a rare interview with the Financial review that the dispute was about one third over. His prediction that there is a lot more to come was perhaps not taken too seriously at the time. The High Court judgement empowering the administrators, and the Federal Court conspiracy trial will both ensure that the struggle on the waterfront continues for a long time to come in one form or another. (Source: Financial Review 5/5/98)


The Maritime Union of Australia is on the verge of winning the war against the Federal government and Patrick, but faces the possibility of losing the peace. Patrick's has used the Corporation Laws to circumvent Reith's Industrial Relations Laws. Even with the High Court ordering the reinstatement of Patrick's M.U.A. staff and even if they win the ongoing conspiracy case, the chances are Patrick's will have tied up their assets in such a way that no M.U.A. member will see a cent.

The current legal manouverings are an indictment of our society. Australia's Corporations Laws are structured in such a way that any employer can divest themselves of their staff and continue trading. The current Patrick's saga is nothing new, a number of transnational corporations have structured their affairs in such a manner that they are able to lay off staff and not even pay them back wages and superannuation. The Howard regime has aided and abetted business in their endeavours to deny workers back pay. The biggest loser in this whole mess isn't the workers or the Federal government. The biggest loser is the state. People are waking up to the reality that the courts and the state are not there to protect their interests, but are there to protect the interests of the corporate sector.

The current legal morass reinforces many Australians disillusionment with both the legal and the political sector. Even if the M.U.A. and the Trade Union Movement win this struggle in the courts, M.U.A. members run the very real risk of finding themselves without a job and without compensation for their immoral and possible illegal sackings.

(Source: Anarchist Age Weekly Review Number 297)


One of the sublime moments of Patrick's appeal to the High Court occurred on Monday when Chief Justice Brennan peered over the dock and asked Patrick's silk Mr Roger Gyles Q.C. whether he realised "If the damages consist of the lost earnings of the entire workforce for the rest of their working lives, one must wonder about the sufficiency of the defence assets."

When Roger Gyles answered that Patrick's had no factored such a consequence into his appeal to the High Court, you could almost visualise a brown puddle forming round the honourable Q.C.'s immaculately polished shoes.

(Source: Anarchist Age Weekly Review Number 297)


News Summary - Monday 4 May

High Court Decision supports union

The High Court Judgement :

The full bench of the High Court has rejected the appeal by Patrick Stevedores and has fully vindicated Justice North of the Federal Court in his Federal Court interim order to reinstate all the dismissed wharfies. The Court decision was 6 in favour and 1 against upholding the order by Justice North. It is nearly 4 weeks since the workers were dismissed on the night of April 7, when security guards and attack dogs in a military style operation stormed Patrick wharves around Australia to physically evict workers while they were doing their jobs.

Chief Justice Sir Gerard Brennan told the court it is not the High Court's ruling, but a decision to resume trading, that may see the employees return to work. This places the decision and responsibility for the reinstatement of the workers firmly into the hands of the administrators. The administrators are still seeking startup funds to enable commencement of trading, including pursuing money owed to the companies by other companies in the Patrick Group. Mr Brook, one of the administrators, said "We're not compelled to hire anybody. We're now able to dismiss the employees if that is the appropriate decision or employ others if that is the appropriate decision. Under the corporations law, voluntary adminstrators have very wide powers in dealing with a company and we're now entitled to use them." Peter Reith has scheduled a meeting with the administrators tomorrow.

This afternoon, Chris Corrigan announced that Patrick Stevedores is providing $3.6 million to the administrators of its labour hire companies to restart trading.

Hundreds of MUA members and supporters gathered outside the court in Canberra. John Coombs said "I think it's fair enough for me - because I'm sure the boot would have been on the other foot if we'd have lost - to call for the resignation of Peter Reith from the Cabinet. He should resign from that position and allow someone to be in there who recognises that there are two sides to every one of these pieces of legislation. Freedom of choice means you have freedom to join a union and you cannot be sacked as a result of that freedom of choice being applied."

John Coombs emphasised that the victory could not have been achieved without the support of the rank and file of other unions. "I want to thank them and hope that they'll stay with us for as long as it takes to get the funds from the banks. And I call upon the banks to recognise a decision - 6-1 in the High Court - the funds should be made available for our people to be reinstated. And they should do it immediately."

(Source: ABC 4/5/98)

From the Picket Line 4 May 1998

12.30pm. East Swanson Dock, Melbourne.

Picture: East Swanson CrowdTwo thousand people gathered at the community assembly at East Swanson Dock to hear the news and listen to speakers and music. The High Court decision is another major moral and legal victory for the Maritime Union against the union busting campaign of Patrick and the Federal Government.

(Source: Takver 4/5/98)

Sydney - Rally at Darling Harbour

Jennie George, ACTU president addressed jubilant wharfies and supporters at Darling Harbour in Sydney after the decision. "We've still got some way to go. It is not all over - we've had a great moral victory again today. We've had the rule of law rule on the side of ordinary working people against the might of corporate power and the might of government. I think it is an absolute disgrace that a Minister of the Crown could have acted in collusion with a company to get rid of an entire workforce, in breach of his own Government's laws."

(Source: ABC 4/5/98)

Darwin - May Day march supports wharfies

The Northern Territory Trades and Labour Council's Didge McDonald said it is illegal for Territory unions to endorse industrial action in support of sacked wharfies. But workers have been contributing to the fund to help their families. "We have people ringing up on a daily basis asking where they can contribute and how they can contribute and where our picket line is. So we have to actually tell them that no we don't actually have a picket line in Darwin, so yeah there's been huge public support."

(Source: ABC 4/5/98)

Brisbane May Day march

Sacked waterside workers took pride of place in the Labor Day parade in Brisbane. About 10,000 union members and supporters gathered in Albert Park to hear the High Court decision. The decision was broadcast live with the reaction to the decision one of relief and jubilation.

(Source: ABC 4/5/98)

Townsville May Day march

At the Townsville port, the sacked wharfies were supported by several other unions after the city's Labour Day march. More than 1,000 people cheered the High Court decision and emotional scenes followed, with union chants and people congratulating each other on the victory. Shortly afterwards, with a small contingent of police looking on, some people started forcing the port's gates. About five men entered the port but were told to come back behind the picket line by union organisers.

(Source: ABC 4/5/98)


Scenes of jubilation followed the High Court Decision. After speeches, MUA members marched up to the police lines at the Patrick gate and Paddy Crumlin from the MUA made a plea for them to be allowed in. He said: "Will you please open the gate on behalf of these workers, who have been cruelly sacked and their families illegally removed, so we can come back in with dignity?"

A police spokesman congratulated the unionists for approaching the gate in a peaceful manner but said they cannot let them in until the police are given the legal authority to do so. The unionists say they will continue the picket line until they can return to work.

(Source: ABC 4/5/98)

Burnie, Tasmania

Less than two hours after the High Court victory, Burnie workers and MUA members marched to the offices of Mr Miles, their federal member of parliament and a member of the Liberal Party. About 40 people, waving placards, gathered outside the offices before storming into the foyer. Union members are angry over what Mr Miles' lack of commitment to Burnie waterside workers throughout the dispute. Police have ordered media and supporters out of the office while the talks continue.

(Source: ABC 4/5/98)


News Summary - Sunday 3 May

From the Picket Line 3 May 1998

Melbourne - Trades Hall Secretary served with a writ for damages

Leigh Hubbard, Secretary of the Victorian Trades & Labour Council was served with a writ for damages on Sunday for his role on the Melbourne docks. The writ was issued by the Supreme court at the instigation of the Melbourne Ports Corporation and also names five others including Greg Combet from the ACTU and former Victorian Labor Premier, Joan Kirner.

The supreme court hearing for the writ will be on Wednesday. Leigh Hubbard refuses to be intimidated by such legal action and will send a legal representative to the court while he takes part in the state wide union rally in support of the MUA and against the Federal Governments Industrial Relations Laws on Wednesday May 6.

The Melbourne Mayday march saw 6,000 people marching from Trades Hall to the Yarra Bank, where speeches were made. There was a marked increase in the number of marchers this year, reflecting the strong concern around the waterfront dispute.

The High Court decision on an appeal by Patricks to prevent the Federal Court order to reinstate the union workers illegally dismissed is due to be announced on Monday at 11.30am. MUA supporters are invited to attend the Community Assembly pickets from 11am to 2pm to hear the decision. Webreaders may refer to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation Newslink service for timely internet updates. Melbourne is +10.00 Greenwich Mean Time.

(Source: ABC 3/5/98)


At the Sydney May Day march, and rally at Darling Harbour, MUA Secretary John Coombs told a crowd of 6,000 that his union will bring down the Howard Government.

"Can I say to you [Prime Minister] John Howard take a lesson from history because I take lessons from history and history has a habit of repeating itself. And I remind you [Mr] Howard that the martime union bought the Bruce Government down in the [19]20s in much the same sort of dispute that's been waged today, and we won't be satisfied until we bring this Government down as well."

(Source: ABC 3/5/98)

Canberra May Day rebuff to Chris Corrigan

Derek Corrigan, the brother of rogue Patrick Stevedores boss Chris Corrigan, has told a May Day rally in Canberra on Friday, the Federal Government's attack on the maritime union is also an attack on the Australian way of life.

"Our way of living, our lifestyle that we hold so dear in this country is being challenged," he said."That's the challenge this is the mechanism by which they've introduced to do it and what you've seen is the first cab off the rank almost, in the case of my brother, who's prepared to use any means to get his way."

(Source: South News -May Day 1998)


The Patrick terminal was successfully blockaded from an attempt by a Perth businessman to break the picket on Friday. The Trades and Labour Council is considering urgent requests for release of cargo on a case by case basis.

Prime Minister lambasted for International Forum comments

Greg Combet from the ACTU has criticised the Prime Minister, John Howard, and Peter Reith for their partisan views on the waterfront in international forums. "Pathetic, isn't it, that Howard and Reith would be talking to international forums about how useless and weak our own Government is, their Government. The union movement's never opposed productivity and efficiency improvements, we believe in negotiating those changes, that's the right way to do it.

"Howard and Reith have made themselves absolute spectators from the sidelines, they've behaved in a partisan way and a thoroughly improper way for a Government [to behave]. ... The real laughing stock is the Howard Government's approach to the waterfront. They've messed their strategy up very badly, they've created a great deal of division in the society, they've created a lot of industrial uncertainty. Instead of behaving like they're partisan players for the company they should really try and act on behalf of the community as a whole."

(Source: ABC 2/5/98)

John Howard heckled at Sydney University

John Howard was heckled while attending his daughters graduation ceremony at Sydney University. A group of about 100 people outside the ceremony were protesting against Federal Government cuts to higher education and its policies on native title and the waterfront. The demonstration was noisy but peaceful. John Howard was forced to arrive and leave by a side door.

(Source: ABC 2/5/98)

New Zealand solidarity action

The Auckland MUA Support Committee has planned a picket of the Australian Consulate for the evening of May 6, from 5pm.

The committee has been meeting for the past few weeks and made a collection on May Day here in Auckland - the money will be on its way soon. The May Day march in Auckland included speeches and chants in strong support of the MUA.

We would like to hear about any other actions planned in NZ or elsewhere in solidarity with the action we understand is planned for Australia on May 6.

Victory to the MUA - NZ workers are supporting the struggle!

(Source: Carlene Wilson kolontai@rocketmail.com)

USA support group meets

The first Ad Hoc meeting in Support of the Australian Wharfies was held in San Pedro Thursday 5:30PM or 1730 maritime on April 30, 1998. The Harry Bridges Institute assisted with organizing the first meeting.

The first meeting was attended by approximately 70 plus people, made up of community activist, politicians, political aids from Long Beach, small business owners, and union members, especially in the maritime fields.

There was a stop work meeting at Longshore hall to explain the issues, Thursday evening.

Issues and actions have been planned by the ILWU on coastwise basis and by the AFL/CIO on a national basis.

(Source: Email to Takver)

Rousing rejection of Reith in Blue Mountains

Peter Reith was given a rousing rejection by Blue Mountains people on 25th April.
On Friday 25th April about 500 joined a picket and protest against Peter Reith who was hoping for a quiet breakfast in the Blue Mountains town of Wentworth Falls.

These protesters ignored the early morning drizzle to make sure that Reith would always remember this breakfast. The elderly, the school children, the Aboriginal community, the shop keepers, as well as unionists from all over the mountains made plain their support for the wharfies.

The picket was entertained by singers including the Blue Mountains Trade Union Choir and the Solidarity Choir from Sydney, as well as local folk singers like Chris Kempster.

Peter Reith found another part of Australia where he was not welcome


(Source: Solidarity Message Board)

Documents implicate PM in conspiracy

From documents filed in court, the Prime Minister, John Howard, has had a role in the conspiracy. He met Lord Sterling of Plaistow in London in June 1997 over lunch at Australia House and they discussed the strategy for waterfront reform. Lord Sterling, chairman of P&O, told Howard that the Workplace Relations Act was not strong enough to successfully rid the waterfront of the villainous Maritime Union, he said, so P&O would "not seek to disturb the status quo".

Over a number of meetings in March 1997 it appears the plan to sack an entire workforce was hatched by Reith and Corrigan. Ministerial advisor Dr Stephen Webster, was one of the consultants who was paid handsomely for a report on waterfront reform. He was subsequently hired as a ministerial advisor. On March 19 Stephen Webster had a meeting with Mike Wells who subsequently formed the Fynwest company with Peter Kilfoyle to undertake the training of non-union labour from the army in Dubai.

During March Corrigan met with David Trebeck, a former deputy director of the National Farmers Federation, who runs a Sydney consultancy, ACIL Economics, which was also commissioned to research waterfront reform for the Government.

(Source: The Age 2/5/98)

Banks may fund labour companies

The banks are considering injecting the capital necessary to get the labour-hire companies operational, thereby removing Lang Corporation's managing director, Mr Chris Corrigan, and the Federal Government from any further negotiations on waterfront reform. The banks may also decide to appoint their own administrator.

Major particpants are predicting privately that Monday's High Court decision is likely to go in the MUA's favour, although some judges, may rewrite the Federal Court's orders to give the administrator more flexibility, which could markedly alter the bargaining power of the various sides.

(Source: Sydney Morning Herald 2/5/98)

LabourStart Free Windows Screensaver

LabourStart is pleased to offer a special May Day gift to the labour movement of the world: a screen saver program in solidarity with the Australian dock workers, including 22 colour and black-and-white images of their struggle. Click here to go to LabourStart where you can download the program, which is 1.2 MB in size.
This is a ZIP file; you must use an unzipping program like Winzip to open it. Run setup.exe once it is unzipped and follow the instructions in the Readme file.

(Source: LabourStart 2/5/98)


News Summary - Friday 1 May

Mayday on the picket line at East Swanson Dock

Picture: Solidarity Rules OKToday my household, including kids and dogs went down to the picket at East Swanson Dock in Melbourne for a picnic lunch. The picket continues, although only a skeleton crew of people - perhaps 50-100 were present today. On the road leading to Gate 1 of Patrick's terminal a little town of tents and caravans has been developing. A full stage has been built for bands and and other entertainers to perform on. The CFMEU (Construction Forestry Mining Engineering Union) has set up a complete first aid camp. A kids play area is off to one side.

Picture: Food Not Bombs Kitchen tentFor the last two weeks the anarchist group, Food Not Bombs Melbourne have been serving lots of vegetarian food to the picketers. A sign to their tent says "Food not Scabs". This has provided a welcome alternative from the barbecued sausages and bacon and eggs. Around the fences are a multitude of banners representing dozens of unions and community groups. We chatted with some women who have started a banner project which will contain the embroidered signatures of all of Patrick's Melbourne staff that have been dismissed. All around us we see people contributing to the defence of the MUA and Trade Unions in many creative ways. The outrageous dismissal of Patricks workers, and the deepening allegations of Government involvement in the conspiracy against workers because of their union membership has served to unite the Labour movement, and community activists.

The picnic was relatively quiet. Tonight my household and some friends will have an evening of food and wine and sing revolutionary and labour songs. The official Mayday march is scheduled for Sunday in Melbourne. Our household will be attending as always.

On Wednesday 6th May Victorian Trades Hall is organising a rally in Support of the MUA and against the Howard governments anti-union industrial relations laws. Thousands of people are expected to rally and march to the docks.

Further allegations on Government conspiracy

The High Court on Thursday heard summations by lawyers from Patrick and the MUA. The full bench of the High Court has retired and will convene for delivery of its decision on Monday at 11.30am. Chris Corrigan had private talks with Prime Minister, "Honest" John Howard and Peter Reith in parliament house today. Reith is a respondent in the MUAs conspiracy case. Its my feeling John Howard knows just as much as his pal Reith, and should be also held just as accountable as Reith for the conspiracy by the Government. Their active partisanship should be condemned as irresponsible and an attack on the rights of citizens to belong to a union.

In the meantime, fresh allegations have been made about the participation of the Government in the Dubai debacle last December. Mr Andrew Harris now owns Fynwest, the company involved in the Dubai affair last year which employed SAS officers in an attempt to train a non-union waterfront workforce. He claims a senior government official was intimately involved in the plan to train non-union labour in Dubai.

Andrew Harris told the ABC TV 7.30 Report that "The documentation I have clearly indicates the government official was aware of all the activities of Fynwest, Container Management Services and Patrick stevedoring from before June last year," Andrew Harris is offering for sale his company, including all documents, for $1 million.

Peter Reith, Minister for Confrontation and Industrial Warfare, denied all knowledge in parliament in December of the Dubai plan.

This is just more acknowlegement that the government has been conspiring for a considerable amount of time to smash the Maritime Union. Productivity issues really are irrelevant, as are the current work practices and wages of wharfies. The agenda of the Government since it came to power has been ideologically driven. This right wing ideology involves crushing the limited defensive power of the union movement. Anti-union legislation has been introduced with hefty fines for secondary boycotts, and making strikes illegal except for specific periods (enterprise bargaining). In the meantime the Government by its actions has condoned commercial irresponsibility and the breaking of its own Industrial laws by the corporate restructing of Patrick.

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Last Modified : May 29, 1998