Over 800 union members and delegates have attended the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) WA State Conference in Fremantle as they looked to deal with the challenges of the industry with local Union leaders as well as national and international representatives.
Paddy Crumlin, national secretary of the MUA and President of the International Transport Federation addressed the crowd on the importance of proper training to increase the safety of the work and also the efficiency of the industry. A point made clear by the fact that three workers had died on Australian wharves in the last year.
“It is a disgrace that across Australia there is not a single simulator to assist in training,” Mr Crumlin said.
“It is only with proper training that we can secure our independence to get the job done.”
Mr Crumlin believed that the current struggle to maintain the Australian shipping industry was the greatest challenge the Union had faced in the last 100 years and as such he had called on the Federal Government to implement a broad range of reforms on the industry.
“We need to stop these ships sailing under flags of convenience which are simply done as a measure of tax avoidance.”
With only 40 ships left in the Australian merchant fleet Mr Crumlin suggested that without Government action those remaining vessels would be left to “rust and disappear over the horizon”
Mr Crumlin also reinforced the point that it was a matter of great frustration that Australian sea farers were unable to work in their own country.
The MUA’s WA State Secretary Chris Cain gave an impassioned speech to the crowd over the Union’s need to be active if worker’s issues in the industry are to be heard.
Having overseen significant growth in the Union’s membership during his time as State Secretary, Cain insisted that the growth must maintain their rank and file focus as they move into the future.
Mr Cain believed they would also look to increase the MUA’s co-operation with other local unions and their campaigns such as the local content campaign surrounding “WA Jobs from WA resources” which focuses on WA businesses gaining as much work as possible from the mining boom.
He cited the major challenges as a continuing battle over occupational health and safety as well as the continuing problem of a casualisation of the workforce, which remains at the centre of the group’s ongoing dispute with stevedoring company Patricks.
“We won’t stand for the casualisation of our worker’s and we’ll never accept workers waiting 13 years to go permanent as is the case with many employed by Patricks.
Mr Cain stressed that they would continue to build the capacity to campaign to ensure that they operating within the new laws surrounding industrial action but they would maintain to fight for the rights of their members.
Central to much of the MUA’s recent industrial strategy has been a focus on international co-operation and as such the conference was attended a by a number of international guests who represented various Union groups from upto nine countries, most of which had already formed alliances with the MUA.
The conference will continue until Friday.
For more information contact: Stephen Kaless, Media Officer, UnionsWA 0417 923 029