Forget the cockies, this battle for the docks is big business

A - I N F O S N E W S S E R V I C E

Melbourne - 1st February 1998.

The Maritime Union of Australia protest at Webb Dock in Melbourne continues.
Private security guards are being regularly bused in to the Webb dock owned by Patricks, the stevedoring firm, and sublet to the National Farmers Federation.

One of the new contract recruits employed to train Scab labour decided not to proceed after assessing the safety conditions they would be working under. (The Age 1/Feb/98)

Security guards had initially been issued with government prison riot equipment. This equipment has evidently now been withdrawn.(The Age 1/Feb/98)

Constant Threats are being made by the Right wing Australian Government and the National Farmers Federation to use legal action under anti union legislation aimed at stopping secondary boycotts. The Government and NFF would like nothing better than a legal excuse to bankrupt the union, and its members. (The Age 1/Feb/98)

Critical Mass cyclists visited the Wharfies protest in solidarity on 30th January.

Security Guard injured (1 Feb) when a rock hit a bus window as it was passing through the Dock gates.

MUA has full backing of Australian Council of Trade Unions and Melbourne Trades Hall. The past two struggles - the training of waterfont mercenaries in Dubai last December - and hiring of non union labour in Cairns in September 1997 - were won only with the threat of international maritime union action.

The present situation has arisen over several struggles in the past year between the rightwing Federal Liberal Party government and its attempt to counteract the limited power of the unions. Anti-union legislation has been enacted, and employer organisations are being encouraged to 'take on' the unions.

New web site with background news articles, link to Labournet page on the MUA struggles, and details of how to contact Peter Reith, the relevant Federal Minister for Workplace Relations and Small Business.

Takver's Soapbox - War on the Wharfies

Also available is material on the Radical Tradition in Australia, including:

* Anarchism in Australia - an anthology - published in 1986 in a limited edition of 50 copies to mark the centenary of organised Anarchism in Australia.

* oral history material on growing up in the 1930's in Brisbane by Vince Englart and Ron Brown,

* Obituaries on the life of Ted Englart, a past secretary (1940s) of the Waterside Workers Federation, Brisbane Branch.


From Leftlink the following message:
Sunday, February 01, 1998 4:25 PM

World ban threat
[ Top of Page ]

By Peter Wilmoth,
John Silvester and Lyall Johnson


The Age Melbourne Online
Sunday 01 February 1998

THE waterfront war escalated yesterday as foreign unions threatened world-wide retaliation against ships handled by non-union labor at Victoria's Webb Dock.

Mr Keef Marges, of the London-based International Transport Workers' Federation, warned ship owners their vessels would be worth "scrap" if the new stevedoring firm being set up by the National Farmers Federation used non-union labor to handle their cargo.

Mr Marges, who spent Friday formulating a reaction among his affiliates around the world to the Melbourne dock crisis, said that if a ship were loaded or unloaded by non-union labor at any Australian port, the ship would be guaranteed a "guided tour". "We will follow the ship wherever it goes," he said.

"We will draw on the power of our affiliates to do whatever we can do."

The dispute was further inflamed yesterday when:

It was revealed that riot shields used by security guards working for the NFF company had been leased from Barwon Prison. Corrections Enterprises (formerly the Department of Corrections) officials have cancelled the lease of the equipment, saying they believed it was to be used for training purposes for a government department.

The ACTU claimed contracts worth more than $25,000 for three months' work had been offered to foreign waterside workers to break the Maritime Union of Australia's hold on waterfront work.

Maritime Union of Australia Victorian secretary Mr Terry Russell claimed a man hired to train non-union labor had defected, saying NFF's stevedoring operation was unsafe and he did not want to be part of it.

Federal Workplace Relations Minister Mr Peter Reith dismissed threats of international bans as "vague and empty". He labelled Mr Marges and his union as "sabre rattlers".

Federal Government sources told `The Sunday Age' that Mr Reith's department was examining whether legal recourse could be taken under the Crimes Act to counter harm to Australian trade caused by an international ban.

The sources said Australia would take legal action only if the dispute worsened. "It has not got close to that point yet," a source said.

A spokesman for Mr Reith's office yesterday confirmed that the Government was taking legal advice, but he declined to elaborate.

Tensions are expected to reach boiling point when the NFF brings new employees in for training this week.

A spokeswoman for the NFF said the new company had started employing. This week it would start training the trainers. She expected there would be "only a handful".

The ITWF's Mr Marges said workers on Australian ports had a "very good name" internationally.

"If the ship owner takes the risk of using non-union labor, they might as well make the ship into scrap, because that's all it will be good for," he said.

Mr Marges said had received phone calls from affiliates around the world. "They're saying, `Are they shooting from the hip, these farmers, like cowboys from the wild west?' "



Forget the cockies, this battle for the docks is big business
[ Top of Page ]


The Age Melbourne Online
Saturday 31 January 1998

The New Right is a term more associated with the late 1980s than the 1990s.

But the current face-off on our wharves is better characterised as the brainchild of the New Right than the National Farmers Federation, for the wharfies are fighting the lawyers, ideologues and big money of the New Right rather than bush cockies.

The distinction will be important to understand in the coming months in assessing how this fight unfolds.

The NFF - at this stage - is providing no money for the fledgling stevedore operation set up by some of its officials, an NFF spokeswoman confirmed yesterday.

Many of the farm bodies linked to the NFF are alarmed about the dispute's impact on their livelihoods. Instead, the NFF has served as a meeting point for its old boys with long-standing ties to union busting in the 1980s - cases such as Mudginberri, Dollar Sweets and Robe River.

The difference in the 1990s is that some of their number are now in government, including the Defence Minister, Mr Ian McLachlan, and the federal Treasurer, Mr Peter Costello.

The scenario unfolding suggests funding for the operation from the heart of the Australian business establishment, rather than the farmer organisations.

Conspiracy theorists can have a field day speculating on who is pushing and who is pulling between the Government and its business mates on this dispute. But at the end of the day, that doesn't really matter as both sides' interests coalesce around the need for a breakthrough after years of talking about it.

John Howard clearly sees the waterfront - like a republic - as an issue where he can portray himself as a tough and decisive leader. The danger, though, is that he is now riding a wild horse.

Public opinion over the longer term is difficult to predict if voters become fearful of economic impacts and physical confrontation.

But the powerful forces backing this assault will not let the Prime Minister back off - or be intimidated by financial threats - just because public opinion sways.



Links to other mainstream news on Webb dock...
[ Top of Page ]

Broken window could give NFF upper hand in court

Govt seeking wharf confrontation: Jones

Cattlemen back wharf competition

ACTU says it has details of NZ labour contract

Wharfies won't give up (a dollar), and the hayseeds struggle too

Court threats in dock row

Softly softly for hard men of the docks

Wharfies overpaid, says firm

Ex-police chief guards dock

Reith backs rebels

Unionists dig in on docks while farmers go to court

Angry wharfies remain on edge

Overseas unions unite to fight NFF

Showdown on the waterfront

NFF declares: We will win the war

LEFTLINK - Victoria's Broad Left Mailing List
Sponsored by Melbourne's New International Bookshop

Publication of a message on this list does not indicate
endorsement by either LEFTLINK or the New International Bookshop.