Published: 27 Mar 2018
20 years ago this year, CFMEU and MUA members forged a relationship in battle based on common ground that would continue to grow and prosper in the ensuing years to come.
CFMEU WA Mick Buchan says: ‘Battlelines were drawn in what would become known as the Patricks dispute. Patrick Stevedores boss Chris Corrigan sacked his entire workforce, locked them out and set up new companies to employ a non-unionised workforce, trained in Dubai. Imagine being locked out of your job and told it was because you were a member of a union. It was not on.
The rally cry went out and arm in arm, brothers and sisters, families and community supporters stood up as one against that form of tyranny.
In WA, the CFMEU was at the forefront, Fremantle pickets, at times approaching two or three thousand strong, prevented trucks from moving on and off Patrick’s wharf. Locked arm and arm CFMEU and MUA members stood as one. It was a case of touch one touch all. And we were proud to be in it together and came out of it much stronger as a result.
A lot of water has passed since then. The Chief protagonist of the Patrick’s Dispute, Peter Reith met his own waterloo a few years later with the famed children overboard affair. Trickery and skullduggery will only get you so far. Suffice to say, we are still here, and he has long since gone. But the issues which affect us all remain.
The Patrick’s dispute was no ghost town; it is not an event that we look back on with lament as if it was the good old days. There has been no room for reminiscing, because we are all still in the thick of it. Since those heady days, there have been many times when both our great unions have supported each other and the interests our members.
The use and abuse of overseas workers to take our local jobs and drive down wages and conditions, the fact that the ‘Big end of town’ (EG: CHEVRON) pay no tax, yet seek total control to ensure the decimation of workplaces. The ABCC and how employers hide behind it to screw workers, unions and the common good, and take way the voice and rights of workers.’
From a stich to a ship to a site.
All this is common ground between both our unions, including the TCFUA (Textile Union), Michele O’Neil TCFUA National Secretary said: “"The combined strength of the CFMEU, MUA and TCFUA in our new union will write a new chapter in Australia’s union movement. Ordinary workers now have a powerful new force for change on their side." We are one! And we are many!
‘On a day to day basis it will be business as usual. Each union will carry on with their own local Secretariat structure, Executive and way of doing things. Exactly like the divisions of Construction, Mining, and Forestry do now and have always done, with each containing its own proud history and identity, but with a common aim.
What will be different is this.
For sure, we will be stronger in membership numbers. But members aren’t numbers. Members are people, human beings with families and real fears, needs and wants. People who most of the time feel they have no voice or power. Our merger is about giving them that power. And plenty of it! We will also have stronger international affiliations to bring pressure to bear in campaigns for workers’ rights here in our own backyard. Stopping the war against workers knows no boundaries.
Make no mistake; we now have coverage of everything from ship to site. And it’s not something we take lightly, but alas we take it on board with strategic and tactical decisions that can benefit all our members. ‘Buchan said.
MUA State Secretary Chris Cain says: “The merging of our three giant unions in their own right, to become ONE POWERFUL FORCE for working class men & women is something that has never been seen before.
From the wharves, to the ships, to the offshore, to the mines, to construction and to manufacturing sectors around this country, will see greater representation through the new amalgamated union. Our members have spoken with full support for this merger. Let’s get on with it and take this Turnbull Government down in the next election.
A message to all employers out there, if you are not doing the right thing by working people, we will be coming for you!!! They don’t like us, we don’t care!!!”
There were deriders (employers and their representatives) who screamed at our coming together.
Yet, no one on the conservative sides of politics yelled at Westfarmers with their various takeovers and mergers giving them all but total control in the ‘cradle to the grave?’ What are they worried about?
AND THEN THERE’S Michaelia Cash who has done everything she can to stop our merger. But it was OK for Cash’s employer of nearly 10 years, FREEHILLS, to merge with the UK-headquartered law firm Herbert Smith to become a conglomerate so why not the CFMEU MUA TCFUA merger? Two sets of rules?
Maybe it’s the fact that on a ship out there somewhere are products that need to be landed, processed, transported and installed to enable construction projects to be completed, maybe some of those products don’t meet Australian standards? Who knows?
What we know is this.
Together we will be stronger. Together we will find more synergies and enact strategies and tactics which will benefit our members. We will not shy away from what is right, from changing the rules.
We are here for the blue. We are here to stay.
Dare to struggle. Dare to win. There’s never been a more exciting time to be a union member.