The Maritime Union today joined the ACTU and other unions in welcoming the break in the political deadlock by independents and the return of a Labor Government.
"For maritime workers a Gillard Government means our two key, long fought for government policy commitments - Australian shipping and national safety regulation in stevedoring are once again back on track," said National Secretary Paddy Crumlin. "But there is more work ahead. None of the independents has given Labor a blank cheque and the union will need to renew its lobbying to ensure the policies are delivered."
The union's expectation is that Labor will now move quickly to implement its election policy announcement on national shipping reform ratification and establish a high level Stevedoring Safety Task Force to undertake an urgent and independent review of industry safety.
The union is also urging government to deliver on its pledge for Commonwealth funds to support national stevedoring training programs and ratify the ILO Maritime Labour Convention (Seafarers' Bill of Rights).
The national secretary said that while the MUA could count on the Greens both in the Senate and the lower house to support the policies, work lay ahead in insuring the support of independents Rob Oakeshott, Tony Windsor and Andrew Wilkie.
"I would say that we would not have any trouble in convincing Green MP Adam Bandt or former security official Andrew Wilkie of the importance of shipping to the Australian economy, security and environment," he said. "But the union will need to seek discussions with all independents in the coming month, as well as continuing to lobby Labor to make good on their promises."
During the election campaign the Minister for Transport Anthony Albanese announced the long awaited shipping policy at a Melbourne luncheon hosted by the Australian Shipowners' Association. The minister promised to work with industry partners on the details and implementation of the policy. At the same time key planks of the policy were adopted by the Opposition, including a tonnage tax.
"The Opposition also publicly backed national stevedoring regulations, but with both shipping and stevedoring Australian workers participation in the process would not have been guaranteed under an Abbott Government," said Paddy Crumlin. "However it is reassuring to see these policies becoming more bi-partisan. It provides some optimism that the policies can be implemented without much fuss.
The union will also be pressing the new Government to adopt an industry policy strategy for Australian shipping, modelled on the US Marine Highways Program and the EU Short Sea Shipping policy. An industry policy which better integrates shipping into national infrastructure and national freight planning dovetails well with greenhouse abatement and responding to urban congestion.
"One of the more positive outcomes of the election is that from July next year the Greens, not conservatives like Family First, will control the Senate promising smooth passage of legislation."
The re-election of a Labor Government has also cleared the way to increased super contributions, better redundancy entitlements and a taxpayer-funded 18 week parental leave scheme at the minimum wage from next year.
"With the re-election of Labor, Australian workers are guaranteed their will be no repeat of 1998 mass sackings or attacks on workers that we witnessed under the previous Coalition Government," he said.
A Labor Government is now committed providing the tax incentives, regulations and skills to entice ship owners to invest in new ships for the Australian fleet. (See MUA welcomes long awaited shipping reform)
Nationally the union also worked with the Labor Government to win its commitment to national stevedoring safety standards through regulation - regulations that can be enforced. This process which started with the National Stevedoring Code of Practice (NSCOP) Project in 2007 is now being finalised within Safe Work Australia.
The union has also worked with the Australian Maritime Safety Authority and employers to revise and improve Marine Orders for Cargo Handling.
"We are working closely with the Transport and Distribution Industry Training Council to ensure the vocational education qualifications, based on the stevedoring training package, are more closely aligned with job roles in stevedoring," said Paddy Crumlin. "We are also working with government to ensure that high risk occupations are licensed and that the competencies necessary to perform high risk work are a requirement for the job."