Sandline-style mercenaries fly to Dubai for waterfront training


From: Andrew Flood
Subject: (en) Union busting in Australia

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Joint Media Release
ACTU and Maritime Union of Australia

Wednesday 3 December 1997

Sandline-style mercenaries fly to Dubai for waterfront training
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The Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) and the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) today said they had received information that a group of ex-military personnel was being recruited and trained as mercenaries for work on the waterfront. Part of the group is to fly out of Melbourne tonight bound for training on the Dubai waterfront.

MUA National Secretary John Coombs and ACTU Assistant Secretary Greg Combet said that they had been advised that:

* Two former SAS commandos were responsible for recruiting up to 70 mercenaries who will travel to Dubai for secret training.

* The secret training will be carried out in Dubai by a mysterious Australian company known as International Port Services Training Group Pty Ltd.

* The initial force is to leave for Dubai on 3 December from Melbourne at 8:45 pm, flying with Emirates Air, with additional personnel leaving on the 7th (Melbourne) and 10th December (Perth).

* The mercenaries will return on 28 February next year.

* Visa and passport arrangements are being facilitated by the Government.

* Upon returning to Australia the mercenaries would soon commence work on the waterfront, replacing existing Australian workers.

* The shadowy company which will employ the mercenaries, Fynwest Pty Ltd., was offering individual employment contracts (Australian Workplace Agreements) under Peter Reith's Workplace Relations Act.

* Some Government members were aware of the secret plan.

The sources of the information did not want to be publically identified, for fear of their safety. The claims are therefore being treated with caution by both the ACTU and MUA. Subsequent investigation has however verified the existence of the two companies identified above. A Mr. Mike Wells and a Mr. Peter Kilfoyle are directors of both companies. Both are believed to have an SAS military background as commandos.

Mr. Wells also placed an advertisement in The Army newspaper on November 13 (see attached) seeking applicants for 'jobs' in land transport activities clearly referable to the waterfront.

The MUA and ACTU have also obtained a copy of an individual employment contract which is being offered by Fynwest, which clearly reveals that the mercenaries are to work in the stevedoring industry. The information also indicates that further training will be undertaken in New South Wales in March 1998 in conjunction with a further 120 to 180 'trainees'.

Both the ACTU and MUA expressed shock in response to the information. Mr. Coombs said that he hoped initially that the information was wrong, but that the union now had enough evidence to demand confirmation or denial of the plan from the Government.

"Enough information has been provided to cause the union serious concern, especially given the well documented hostility of the Government to the MUA. If this is true, and the Government is involved, it would be a national scandal because both the ACTU and the MUA have recently met with Workplace Relations Minister Peter Reith in discussions described by him as frank and constructive," said Mr. Cooms. "We approached those discussions in good faith, and I hope Mr. Reith did as well."

Mr. Coombs said that he would be calling for calm amongst MUA members, and the continuation of work as usual. He also called on the stevedoring employers, P&O and Patrick Stevedoring, to publically denounce the secret plan.

ACTU Assistant Secretary Greg Combet said that the ACTU was treating the claims with caution, but that there was enough evidence to cause widespread alarm in the union movement and the Australian community.

"I certainly hope that para-military operations like this would never be contemplated in Australia, but the documents and information received to date all provide a sufficient basis for us to bring this to the attention of the community.

"The secret plan has the potential to cause explosive industrial disputation, and only the most reckless and irresponsible people could possibly be associated with it. It is categorically un-Australian, and will be met with horror," said Mr. Combet.

Mr. Coombs and Mr. Combet said that the ACTU and MUA noted the denial by Government members in Question Time today of knowledge of the plan. They said however that there should be a full investigation of the issue and condemnation by the Government of the possible use of industrial mercenaries on the waterfront. They also said that the following questions needed to be answered in any investigation of the issue:

* Do any members of the Government have knowledge of or any involvement in the secret plan?

* If so, for how long? What is the objective?

* Have any public funds been used to finance the operation?

* Has a senior officer of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade been involved?

* Have any serving members of the armed services been involved?

* Have any of the consultants reports to the Government concerning the waterfront, particularly the ACIL Report and the reports associated with Dr. Webster (a current consultant to Mr. Reith), canvassed such plans?

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