Leslie Joseph Parsonage Symes, former ITF Coordinator has died aged 82. See National Secretary Paddy Crumlin's announcement below.
Les could never cop injustice or unfairness in any form. He fought hard against those that could not show respect to others and was in the front line of translating those values into unrelenting support for the abused, exploited and disregarded seafarers of the Flag of Convenience fleet coming to Australia.
A well respected, admired and greatly liked wharfie of the old school he made an important and life changing shift when he took over from his great mate and comrade TAS Bull as Australian ITF coordinator when TAS went into the national office with Charlie Fitzgibbon.
They were the bookend brothers and FOC shipowners came to learn that Australian maritime workers would not cop their negligence and exploitation.
The ITF in many ways relied on the Australian maritime unions to deliver the FOC campaign in our region and we did. Les, like Tas and Charlie Fitzgibbons before him became a bit of a legend around the ITF world as a result.
His legacy of two plus decades forged a campaign that continues to be in the forefront of international defense and construction of any workers rights including of course his beloved seafarers.
The back pay he won back ran into tens of millions, the lives he saved from negligence and corporate corruption uncountable and the dignity he gave to international seafarers immeasurable.
A humble bloke with a quick wit and turn of phrase he was like kinetic energy personified. Always on the move Organising, talking, networking he captured the essence of trade union drive and effectiveness.
In retirement his special commitment to those international seafarers never diminished and he continued to distinguish his work and our union and ITF through his work at the Boomerang club for international seafarers.
When Tassie passed Les said to me that the two of them never regretted a moment of their work with the ITF and the union.
Les lived his life changing the lives of others for the better, particularly international seafarers and their families that would never have the protection and support every human being deserves from exploitation and intimidation. There can be no better achievement than that.
Vale Les Symes. Wharfie and internationalist. Fighter for peace and workers rights. Now at rest.
MUA National Secretary