2011 presents opportunities as well as problems for MUA members and the union must continue to work hard to secure and build on our industrial, political and economic rights.
I am writing this at the World Congress of the International Trade Union Confederation, meeting together under the theme of ‘Now the People’.
Outgoing General Secretary Guy Ryder reminded the leaders of the trade union movement that unlike the World Cup, in the contest of workers seeking fairer and more decent work we are either all winners or all losers.
Sharan Burrow who will be elected as the leader of the world trade union movement by the time you read this MWJ, challenged the delegates on how we can in turn collectively challenge ourselves to make trade union internationalism an effective instrument for the changes so desperately needed to deal with the terrible suffering and escalating economic and social injustice stemming from the rampant greed and failure of states around the world that underpinned the Global Financial Crisis.
World leaders’ rhetoric about meting out penalties for gross corporate self interest and regulating financial markets in particular is now increasingly being replaced by a return to speeches and political actions warning against over-regulation and the dangers of modifying the market speculation that drove the credit crisis in the first place.
Greed is slowly being rehabilitated. Disgusting levels of bonuses and other corporate remuneration are being made fair again. Any attempt to qualify or moderate profits through taxation to ensure more sustainable economies and societies is again being labelled irresponsible and counter intuitive to what makes the real world go round.
So we must assume that the engine room is self interest, lack of accountability and a total reliance on the moral superiority of those that make money as a result. We can have jobs, just as long as you don't ask for more or organise in any fashion that can be interpreted as interfering with these fundamentals of market success.
In the face of these absurd propositions both outgoing General Secretary Guy Ryder and Sharan are serving up a powerful call for international labour to accelerate and refocus our efforts for a sustainable future.
They are calling on us to join together in determined campaigning and organising to treat jobs with decent working conditions as a corollary of corporate success not an impediment to it.
We must force the recognition that pervasive poverty and grinding human suffering has exponentially increased through the market and governance failures that brought the crisis about. We must equally prosecute the recognition that those failures also widely prevailed during the long economic success of the decade and more leading up to that crisis.
Financial and market regulation must be effective, pervasive and non negotiable. Capital must be made to respect workers’ rights and ownership and be channelled into better infrastructure and social and community standards.
Economic wealth should not be used solely to create the luxury fortresses of entrepreneurial monopoly, where enormous gambles, tax minimisation and self aggrandisement are effectively underwritten by those same workers who pay their taxes through choice – or more likely lack of it.
It is an ambitious agenda, particularly given the international movement’s long track record of being more inclined to rhetoric than outcomes that are enormously difficult to achieve.
The steady decline in trade union density around the world over the last 20 years is testament that words aren't going to do the trick and that inevitably the next crisis of capitalism will be far longer, much more devastating to billions of humans and much less likely to be repaired than the last.
To hear Sharan Burrow, an Australian, a woman and a proud worker articulating this proposal as leader of organised labour internationally should fill us all with confidence. She has proven her commitment to the labour movement in this country and now has the opportunity to continue this work at the only level that can genuinely deliver a changed attitude and governance system.
The fact she has been one of the MUA's greatest friends and supporters throughout her whole tenure as ACTU President should fill every member of our union with both pride and our particular form of determination to help her get the job done.
BILLIONAIRE'S PICKET LINE
What a sad and heart wrenching sight it was to see the leaders of Australian and foreign mining companies on their picket line against the new resources tax.
These great socialists really haven't got any motivation other than our national interest. They are warning us that the Federal Labor Government’s tax restraining their feeding frenzy will only result in pain and suffering.
How could we have gotten it so wrong? These generous and compassionate hearts and minds were so determined to protect our national interest that they gave up their polo and golf day to get their community message out there on the street.
They have cruised through on the gravy train fuelled by Labor Government policies and the Chinese market which together shielded our economy from the Global Financial Crisis.
Australia was one of the few Western economies not to go into recession. Our escape from the GFC had bugger all to do with any action by the mining bosses who were happy to gouge out lion-size mouthfuls of profit while wallowing in their corporate remuneration and share bonus schemes.
All the time they were working their backsides off restraining workers’ pay and excluding unions from their workplaces in case they ever had to be accountable to anyone or anything other than their own morbidly obese egos and interests.
What is most surreal, or outrageous depending on your perspective, is that the iron ore, coal and other commodities that deliver this orgy don't actually belong to them. We the Australian people own them. They are our non-renewable assets. When the bank is bare there is no more – save for our other industries such as our non-existent manufacturing sector and rapidly disappearing shipping industry.
Resource taxes like this one effectively give us as a nation, through the government, a higher stake as an equity partner in our own assets. So if there's more profit, we get some of that to invest in our national infrastructure for now and the future, help people retire with more and do what any sovereign wealth fund does in the Middle East or elsewhere – back our collective self interest in our own country.
Listening to these carpetbaggers and lard arsed loiterers you'd think we were stealing their racehorses off them. The petroleum industry worldwide is reliant on this type of tax and the benefits to those national interests are self-evident.
The Federal Government hasn't got it all right for sure. But there remains a clear choice. These tossers and their creepy political cronies led by Abbott can hardly wait to get the lot again. After all, like Alices in their Wonderland, they perceive governments are there to bail them out – anything else infuriates them. We need to picket their pick it.
PRIME MINISTERS, PARTIES AND TRIBES
Prime Minister Rudd's spectacular drop in popularity was a mixture of bad luck, bad timing and bad policy. At the end of the day it was very bad luck for him because he is no longer Prime Minister Rudd.
One thing is clear however. These changes have nothing to do with any attribute, policy or other application by Abbott and his gang of go slows.
Take the personalities out, we have always found Rudd a decent and hard working person as we have Julia Gillard. That’s not the point.
The bad luck wasn’t Rudd’s blue. Amongst other things, the government’s announcement of its intention to introduce a resource tax coincided with Greece going down the gurgler and the big consequential drop in the stock market, in turn fuelling the mining companies’ self induced hysteria on the tax, and their propaganda that it was the end of the world as we know it.
The government’s decision to delay a carbon trading scheme was bad timing. It greatly undervalued the importance of support for actions to stem global warming by enormous numbers of voters, particularly in Australia's cities. Rudd worked hard to shift this debate and effectively deal with carbon emissions here and internationally and should have given short shift to the couple of influential ministers more interested in polls than policies – including by all reports Julia Gillard and Mark Abib. There’s a fair bit of irony right there.
The Rudd government’s consistent obfuscation on a small number of key policy settings was bad policy and unnecessarily damaging to their electoral performance.
The government’s continuing denial of the moral bankruptcy of the Australian Building and Construction Commission defies logic. This mob are bigger thugs and standover merchants than the so-called actions they were put in place to deal with.
The Commission relies on judicial powers more suitable to a dictatorship than a democracy and was born out of a long labour of political partisanship, manipulation and distortion including discredited Royal Commissions and other inquiries.
The building industry doesn't want unions – not unlike many other industries in this country including our own – and they jumped on the Howard anti-union agenda consistent with their long commitment to self-interest and opportunism.
For the Rudd and now Gillard Governments to feed this mob is bad policy because it's counter productive to dealing with the real issues in the industry. It is an approach that sides with a political not a functional fix for the many safety, contracting, casual and precarious work problems in an industry also subject to massive shifts in labour requirements due to economic cycles.
If Ark Tribe goes to jail as a scapegoat for the ABCC than we all will end up there one way or another.
Labor can find new leaders, have better luck and improve its timing and messaging but will still go nowhere unless it addresses bad policies. They have some great things going for them, and their imminent further commitment to shipping will be another one. But the ABCC doesn't rate as anything except a bad place from bad days and needs to be wiped like a dirty arse.
IS IT POSSIBLE?
Have you heard the one about officials from another maritime union suing one of the MUA's senior officials for defamation? Sounds like the start of a bad joke I know.
Officials from the same union have dumped newspapers with anti-MUA advertisements at our rank and file conference doorsteps, publicly sided with anti-union employer organisations criticising the MUA in notorious anti-union media outlets, and are widely known for behaviour demonstrating a general obnoxiousness that is bemusing rather than amusing.
A few metaphors come to mind, but something to do with glass houses and stones is the closest guess. Or like certain species, they shed thick skins for thin on a cyclical basis.
Maritime Super and Auscoal the IndustrySuperannuation Fund for the mining industryare exploring opportunities for a merger potentially creating a fund of over 8 billion dollars. The criteria for any merger areproven benefits in service and lower costs to the two funds membership. The cooperative approach between the MUA and CFMEU Mining and Energy Division has proven to be very important in strengthening the financial services to members of the Maritime Mining and Power Credit Union at a time that the international financial system is in disgrace over its poor levels of governance and the major contribution it made to the Global Financial Crisis.
The determination of the two unions and the Australian Trade Union movement generally to continue to build durable, quality and supportive financial and superannuation services to maritime and other workers and our families remains central to our vision and concrete work.
SAFETY AND SKILLS
The Bulk and General and Terminal Conferences of stevedoring members have clearly connected the increase in work accidents resulting in death and serious injury to the poor training culture in the industry. Fast tracking casual workers into the job has been prioritised over well founded, funded and researched training infrastructure in the industry. Compared to the best practice training facilities in the international dockers industry, Australia is a joke. The importance of crane and machinery simulators and clearly defined modules and competency renewal throughout a wharfie’s working life is essential to those workers well being. We are looking for the employers together with support from the Federal Government to urgently address the deficiency.