100,000 People rally in Melbourne to support the Maritime Union - 6 May 1998


Picture: 100,000 people rally at Trades Hall in support of MUA


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.

The rally was attended by unionists, community activists, and people concerned with the attacks on unionism in this country.

There were grandmothers, babies in prams, office workers, cleaners, firefighters, construction workers, students, teachers, nurses, and others in attendance.

Police estimated the crowd at more than 75,000 people but Union estimates say there were close to 120,000 people.

People gathered outside Trades Hall (known as the Workers Parliament) on the corner of Lygon Street and Victoria Street Carlton at 10am. The crowd had slowly built and occupied the intersection, and extended up Lygon street for some distance, down Russell Street, and both ways down Victoria Street.

Messages of support were heard from the British Trade Union Congress general secretary John Monks, who said British trade unionists had been the subject of similar attacks by the former government of Margaret Thatcher. No mention was made of the plight of the Liverpool Dockers, who many believe were sold out by their union leaders in their two year long battle on the docks of Liverpool.

The Ethnic Communities Council of Australia pledged its continuing support to maritime workers on behalf of 165 ethnic organisations.

The march then left Trades Hall with Patrick wharfies leading.

The day was fine and mild - an excellent day for a protest march.

Picture: Anger at Peter ReithPeople 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.

The march wound its way down Russell Street, La Trobe street, and down the length of Swanston walk to the corner of Finders Street, outside Flinders Street Station, where a stage had been set up.

Picture: Memorial to Fred Brock on Patrick Gates, East Swanson Dock.A minute of silence was observed by the rally for Fred Brock, a retired wharfie who died during this struggle. Fred was visiting Japan at the time of the lockout at Webb Dock in late January. He appealed to his fellow dockers in Japan for their support of the Maritime Union against the attacks of Patrick, the Federal Government, and the National Farmers Federation. On April 17, Fred collapsed after giving a speech and died shortly after. The Japanese dockers and seamen have donated money to the defence fund of the Maritime Union and have given strong support. The Australian embassy was subject to a protest with that well known chant "MUA HERE TO STAY".

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

Martin Kingham, president of the Victorian Trades Hall Council addressed the rally saying Melbourne's most famous had not seen such numbers since the anti Vietnam war protest of the 1970's. He thanked the community support against the conservative forces in Australia attempt to destroy the union movement. "Well, we have demonstrated just how determined we are today to protect the rights of working people in this country," Mr Kingham said.

Jennie George, President of the ACTU, said "Not only are we going to see it through on the waterfront, but this is going to be the beginning of a long campaign leading up to the election to make sure that John Howard and Peter Reith are thrown out of Government."

Derek Corrigan (Chris Corrigan's brother), spoke against the workplace Relations Act: "Draconian legislation is still there, so if you're back in your workplace and listening to this think about it. This is not about the MUA, this is about every worker."

The crowd was invited back to the Old ballroom in Trades Hall to celebrate the reinstatement of Patrick Wharfies.

Picture: Gathering Crowd - 8 hour day monument
Picture: Gathering Crowd - 8 hour day monument
Picture: Trades Hall - Lygon Street full
Picture: Trades Hall MUA Rally
Picture: Cleaners support the wharfies
Picture: Job security an issue
Picture: Tram connies not ticket machines
Picture: From Russell into La Trobe Street
Picture: Marching down Swanston Walk
Picture: Marching down Swanston Walk
Picture: Unionists for Wik banner
Picture: TWU protest against Reith & Kennett

Picture: Listening to speakers on Swanston Walk - May 6


Victorian Workers Day of Protest Wednesday 6 May
Fight Howard's Industrial Relations Laws
Stop Work Rally
10 am 6 May at Trades Hall

From the Trades Hall Leaflet:

Patrick Sackings: an Outrage!

Picture: Rally May 6 PosterMaritime workers are not redundant, scab labour has been brought in to replace them. Patrick created a shelf company to employ labour which then sacked workers at a moments notice. The Howard government has promised to bankroll the sackings, which they engineered with the company. If Patrick get away with this corporate scam, every worker's job will be less secure.

Demonising the MUA.

This is not about 'lazy, inefficient' workers, it is about the right to belong to an effective union. Maritime workers were sacked in ports such as Burnie where productivity is higher than the targets set by the government for waterfront reform. Waterfront productivity requires modern equipment and capital investment. Where this is provided, Australian wharves are competitive. Maritime workers earn good wages only by working huge overtime while the bosses insist on further job cuts.

An attack on all workers.

The maritime workers were sacked because they were members of the MUA. If this union-busting succeeds, all employers will feel free to sack workers for being unionists. The bosses and government want to reduce job security, working conditions and wages by placing us all on individual contracts. To achieve this the government has put in place a network of laws in the Workplace Relations Act and the secondary boycott provisions of the Trade Practices law to destroy unionism and the solidarity aamoung workers that is its foundation.

What can we do to defend the right to organise?

  • Contact your union to find out how you can get involved
  • Raise money to support the 1400 sacked workers and their families
  • Organise meetings in your workplace
  • Contact VTHC to arrange a Maritime Union speaker
  • Volunteer for rostered and emergency picket line duty by contacting VTHC to be included on the emergency telephone tree.
VTHC PHONE 03 9662 3511 FAX 03 9663 2127

10am at Trades Hall
Cnr Victoria & Lygon Sts Carlton Sth

(Authorised by Leigh Hubbard, VTHC Secretary 19 April 1998)


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Last Modified : May 12, 1998