Dignity: Seafarers Retirement Fund

Of all the achievements the SUA made in working within a capitalist economy, the provision of a successful retirement fund was the most remarkable. There had been calls for such a scheme for at least twenty years before it was implemented. When Pat Geraghty assumed the position of a federal official, the provision of a retirement fund became his special project. Robert Coombs remembers that Pat Geraghty was a "very determined fellow", who was single-minded in carrying out the responsibilities his position as an official generated. Nowhere was this more visible than in the dedication he gave to developing the retirement fund.

The SUA"s Retirement Fund Negotiating Committee, consisting of Geraghty, John Brennan and John Benson, was appointed and started meeting shipowners' representatives in April 1972. By September, they had concluded and the Seamen's Journal announced the fund could now be introduced. At that time it was confined to seamen, but when the Marine Cooks and Marine Stewards Unions joined early in the new year, the name was changed to the Seafarers' Retirement Fund. It commenced at midnight on 2 May 1973. Seafarers who wanted to participate were to contribute a weekly sum of $1.35, the sipowners were to pay $2.70, and the benefit paid was $6 per week.

What started as a $1-plus contribution with a $6 benefit payable, within ten years was a $12 a week contribution with a $140 per week benefit payable. By 1991, when Pat Geraghty retired from the SUA, members were contributing just over $36 per week for a $429 benefit.

The SRF was significant not just as a wonderful boon to seafarers life of dignity and comfort, it was remarkable in breaking new ground as a superannuation fund. No longer would superannuation just be available to salaried and highly paid management staff. At the time of Pat Geraghty's retirement function, reported in the Seamen's Journal, January 1992, ACTU Secretary Bill Kelty said when other unions were setting up superannuation they "had gone to see Pat to see how it was done."