Maintain the Rage

Maintenance workers from around Australia, New Zealand and the west coast of USA have descended upon Adelaide for a two-day conference covering the unique issues maintenance workers are faced with. 

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After an entertaining Welcome to Country by Kaurna man Jack Buxton, Assistant National Secretary Warren Smith opened the conference in talking about the struggle – the struggle of maintenance workers, the struggle of MUA members and the struggle of the wider working class.

Smith said the issues across the industry globally were not dissimilar and that it was important to get everyone into the same room to discuss and find solutions to some of those issues.

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“Maintenance workers are integral and are becoming more important everyday as operators march blindly towards automating the workplace,” Smith said. 

“There is a movement towards people who fix the machinery, rather than the people who unload the ships and let me make this clear those people should be and will continue to be MUA. 

“This means maintenance workers are in the best possible position to carry the torch, whether it be on the industrial front, or in maintaining safety on the waterfront. 

“It is so important that we don’t go backwards and that we leave the workplace in a better state than we found it.

“We have to leave something for the generation behind us much like our forebears left better working conditions for us.”

Following Smith the room was opened up to workplace-specific issues and as everyone spoke out it became apparent that many of the problems on each site were the same across the board.

Outside contractors, lack of training or knowledge, employer pressure and safety were highlighted by most delegates as areas of concern.

Lead organiser Bernie Farrelly suggested that developing a certificate or qualification for maintenance workers and wharfies.

“From what’s been said today it’s obvious that what is required is a package of elements that identifies what a tradesman on the waterfront looks like,” Farrelly said. 

After lunch the international guests from the International Longshore and Warehousing Union and the Maritime Union of New Zealand identified the issues they were confronted with in their respective countries.

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MUNZ Local 13 Assistant Secretary Craig Harrison spoke about the Ports of Auckland dispute and how MUA maintenance workers had supported the wharfies in that prolonged dispute.

Meanwhile the ILWU’s Michael Stanton had a sobering warning about ICTSI and discussed some of the Philippines-based Global Network Terminal’s underhanded tactics in the Port of Portland.   

Safety issues became a hot topic of conversation which was helpful for when new National Safety and Education officer Mick Cross took to the podium.

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“Safety is about communication and is integral to organising,” Cross said.

“Safety and HSRs should not operate in independence of delegates and industrial issues, more often than not the two matters are intertwined.”

During his session the notion of an ‘automation code of practice’ was raised and received positively by delegates before day one was officially closed.