The MUA was front and centre of the ACTU NexGen Conference in Sydney, which was designed to identify up and coming trade unionists and equip them with campaigning and networking tools to fight future campaigns.
A delegation of MUA members, officials and organisers from SA, NSW, WA and NT heard from domestic and international leaders from the labour movement.
MUA National Secretary and ITF President Paddy Crumlin gave a keynote speech on the first day highlighting battles here and abroad.
For a long time, workers have been prepared to fight morally bankrupt governments and dodgy corporations.
“Same fight, new moves, the class struggle is ongoing,” Crumlin said.
“We have nurtured working men and women and given them the dignified basis of their lives – not only in this country but internationally
“Everything about decency and work has been defined by the labour movement … the rank and file membership knew injustice and have always identified injustice when they see it."
Crumlin said inequality is at historically high levels and there was an obvious and important role for trade unions.
“There is a new industrial revolution – automation, communication, just as violence through war as there ever was but it’s being done in a much different way,” he said.
“It’s still about segregating working communities, segregating on race, gender, age.
“That it’s not is the great lie that we get told by the fake news outlets and part of what we need to do is to identify that and mobilise mass action in response to the war on workers and the inequality that comes with it.
“We’re untying the knots of greed and elitism … people want answers and they aren’t getting the from their politicians."
Crumlin said it was important to always have your eyes on the horizon, not just on your own back yard.
“The MUA made a decision when in 1998, around 2,000 mercenaries who had been secretly trained, walked into our workplace at Patrick’s.
"Workers who had bargained over 120 years for their rights on the job, respect from the boss and to have safe work practices, found out they were working in $2 companies and had no rights.
"We knew then that we had to reach out much further than just this wonderful labour community in this country, we had to reach out and we had to grasp what globalisation was about."
This process led to Crumlin becoming President of the ITF, an international union federation representing around 700 transport unions and more than 4.5 million transport workers from 150 countries.
“Now, we have things like the TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership) where they are trying to negotiate away people’s livelihoods,” he said.
"Our labour movement will secure our futures; it is fundamental to the needs of our daily lives and our communities, not only domestically but internationally.
"We need to have the ability to challenge where things deserve to be challenged, on the basis of truth and honesty and who has a real vision for the future of working men and women in this country."
ACTU Secretary Sally McManus told union organisers at the conference the answer to the greed of the few is more power for the many.
“The rules that were meant to protect our rights are now not strong enough,” McManus said.
“They need to be rewritten. We need to change the rules to make the wealthy pay their fair share of tax.
“We need to change the rules so working people have more power.”
A dinner was held to commemorate the 90th Birthday of the ACTU.
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten mentioned the plight of the crew of the MV Portland and reaffirmed his commitment to Australian Shipping.
Former Prime Minister Bob Hawke reflected on the movement over the years paying tribute to the WWF’s Jim Healy.
The conference saw the launch of the ACTU's “Change the Rules’ campaign kit that focuses on what is wrong with current industrial laws in Australia and the plan to change them.