New faces are the hallmark at national office as two of the union’s most senior distinguished officials retire and two branch officials in their prime make their way to MUA HQ.
Deputy National Secretary Jim Tannock, 64, and Assistant National Secretary Rick Newlyn, 57, are both retiring at year’s end after a long and distinguished contribution to the union.
Warren Smith, 43, and Ian Bray, 41, take their places in the national team as assistant national secretaries. Warren Smith leaves his position of Sydney Branch Secretary and Ian Bray moves from WA Assistant Branch Secretary.
A special executive meeting held in Sydney in July recommended the two branch officials for national office and decided to recognise the outstanding contributions of both retiring officials – as rank and file members, elected delegates and full time officials.
“Both Jim and Rick have represented the union at the highest levels and are respected for their long and principled service to the labour movement both in Australia and internationally,” said National Secretary Paddy Crumlin. Both will continue their association with the union and remain available to support the union and membership when needed.
Under union rules the executive recommends the casual vacancies for the positions until the next union elections in 2011. A special national council convened on August 20 endorsed the changes. The November council dinner will be in their honour to mark their retirement on November 5, with invitations going out to international guests and among the broad Australian labour movement.
Meanwhile Mick Doleman has moved up to the position of deputy national secretary. And both WA and Sydney branch have filled the vacuum with local leadership changes.
Assistant Sydney Branch Secretary Paul McAleer has moved to the top post in Sydney with veteran seafarer and union activist Joe Deakin coming in as assistant branch secretary.
A reshuffle in the West sees long time Deputy Branch Secretary Keith McCorriston moving to the ITF inspectorate and Adrian White, ITF inspector moving to the deputy position. Branch organiser Will Tracey has been appointed assistant branch secretary. Independent of these leadership changes Les (PigDog) Rayward is retiring as SQld assistant branch secretary to be replaced by Tony Austin, a wharfie from DP World, Fishermen’s Island.
All branch appointments were made by national council following recommendations from the relevant branch committee of rank and file of the branch executive officers.
WARREN SMITH, 43, comes to MUA HQ after leading the Sydney Branch as secretary for two years, and a further four years as assistant branch secretary. He has spent 20 years in the maritime industry, working as a wharfie before being elected to office.
Warren has a long history of political and union activism, learning many skills on the Patrick picket during the 1998 waterfront war. He has also led major shipping disputes on the ground including the Stolt Australia (Hobart, 2006) and the Triton (Darwin, 2008).
As branch secretary he played a key role in supporting the MUA film unit and taking charge of the Hungry Mile campaign, developing high levels of communication through workers’ film, press and radio, while developing a strong branch policy of rank and file empowerment, building delegate structures and empowering job site committees.
“I come to the job with an absolute commitment to work with branches and delegates,” said Warren. “The branch has been part of many successful EBA negotiations across all areas of our industry.
“We have always involved the rank and file in our negotiations and believe that the union cannot do otherwise. It is paramount that the union gets it right industrially. We need to ensure the bread and butter issues are fixed to allow us to concentrate on expanding the power and influence of the union.”
As branch secretary Warren also continued the union tradition of supporting causes at home and abroad, from Aboriginal rights to workers’ rights in Colombia and Cuba to name a few.
“Maintaining solidarity between workers and unions both nationally and internationally is vitally important,” he said. “We can’t win alone. Some may think the MUA is bullet proof and capable of withstanding the onslaught of whatever force takes us on. But while we are one of the most organised and capable unions, we cannot win alone. A single union against the odds of international capital just can’t win. Every major blue, whether Patrick’s 98 or the Triton 11, has been linked to international solidarity.
“In defending our own we have to work to build both worker and community support at home at the same time strengthening global solidarity and the international working class movement abroad. The history of our international work is that it delivers.”
Warren points to the lessons of 1998, turning workers’ pickets into community assemblies on the ground, while calling on worldwide support on the world stage through the ITF.
“The ILWU role in Los Angeles with the Columbus Canada was a determining factor in the Patrick dispute as was the ITF role in influencing the end of the scab operation in Dubai. Support from the UK/Dutch union Nautilus was a determining factor in the battle of the Triton where MUA crew members sat in as Gardline tried to replace them.”
As assistant national secretary Warren will be responsible for POAGs, Toll Stevedoring and Shipping, CSL, INCO, DP World Terminals, AAT, Teekay, Darwin (Port Authority/Perkins shipyard), Skilled, NSS and port authorities, Capital Stevedores in Tasmania - a set of key industrial responsibilities with a focus on blue water and stevedoring.
“In the industrial areas I have responsibility for it will be my goal to have strong and independent committees and delegate structures set up that can strengthen the operation of the union in the workplace. Union control of the workplace comes from sound delegate structures that send the message loudly and clearly to the bosses that our union is run from the bottom up and the delegates and committees aren’t to be messed with. Bosses need to know they have to deal with the workers and there’s no knocking on the back door looking for an easy fix if the workers aren’t treated with respect and dignity on the job."
Warren will also lead the national office organising strategy team.
“It’s about a strategic and organised approach,” he said. “The inherent responsibility of the organising team is to oversee an organising culture in the union, implement organising campaigns, heighten and develop focus on the organising model, thereby strengthening the membership and the power of the union.
“We have to have 100 per cent strength so the boss can’t take advantage of us and get over us at all. We need to wage campaigns to improve the standard of living of members and job safety. This approach needs to be developed in all our areas of work, building union capacity to fight and win.”
Warren said his many years working in bulk and general stevedoring and in the Port Botany terminal gives him first hand experience of how hard and incredibly dangerous work on the waterfront can be.
“You don’t get a second chance if you are hit by a container or a big machine,” he said. “It’s the responsibility of the union to make sure every worker comes home to his or her family each shift.”
IAN BRAY, 41, comes to office after six years working as a branch official, 19 years seafaring in both offshore and blue water including scientific research vessels and a lot under his belt.
He brings with him to MUA HQ organising skills honed in the west, which helped the branch more than double in size to become the union’s biggest in numbers in recent years.
Ian will be responsible for diving, the MUA/AWU, Hydrocarbon Alliance, FPSOs, Patrick Bulk & General, Rio Tinto, ASP, towage, dredging, P&O, maritime, coal terminals and port authorities.
“In the areas I’ve got responsibility for it’s about assisting the rank and file and the branches. It’s about empowering members through organising and delivering outcomes based on well-developed strategy.
“Rank and file empowerment has been a strong point of leadership in WA. We’ve got good industrial outcomes as well as good political outcomes in the state. Empowerment makes it a lot easier to go in and assist workers identify the virtues of the union, the collective and how that benefits the individual and their families.
“Organising gets you in the door, but you still have to assist workers and members to deliver on the outcomes that they think are important to them and ensure the rank and file get their say.
“We worked hard to rebuild trust in the offshore diving industry and ROV. We listened to the members, empowered them and organised them in a collective. They got the best EBA they’ve ever had.
“With the remote offshore vehicle operators it was the same thing. They were completely unorganised in the offshore industry. Union density was close to zero. We built on the back of the diving campaign. It enhanced the union’s reputation and we used that to engage ROV workers into a collective in the space of four months. Soon after this their wages increased 30-50 per cent within a matter of months.
“The next divers’ EBA will concentrate on maintaining what we have achieved and working to improve living and working conditions. There are only about 200 in ROV but they are a highly-skilled workforce. Strategically this gives the union the potential to be a major influence in anything subsea.
“I hope to implement the branch organising success nationally and help grow the union, using my experience from the ground level to national. I’ll be helping the branches get better outcomes with their campaigns and better positioning the union going forward.”
On Indigenous affairs: “We have achieved some really good mutual outcomes by having a strong relationship with indigenous communities up the west coast. And it’s a relationship that can be expanded nationally. What makes it work is respect. It’s not just about recruiting the indigenous workers into a union; it’s about where they are and what they need. The real goal for us is to establish a level of trust whereby the traditional land owners don’t sign off with government or companies on development projects unless there’s union labour and we don’t sign off unless their communities get education, facilities, real training and real jobs at the end of it – not training so they end up with a few hundred gardeners’ jobs in the community but real jobs, skilled jobs that will offer ongoing skills to the community. The development of a social compact with traditional land owners could be one of the most successful outcomes that the union movement offers this generation of workers.”
On MUA women: “Women are playing a great role in our union. The WA experience is that in two of Australia’s biggest tonnage ports, Karratha and Port Hedland, women feature strongly throughout the delegate structure. Identifying and rectifying women’s issues ultimately benefits all the membership. Examples of this are maternity/paternity leave and the work/family balance. Women have assisted in developing some great union policy and I am really looking forward to working with the committee in the future.”
On safety: “There’s plenty of work to be done there after the complete undermining and gutting of the safety authorities under the Howard Government and the move to self regulation. Every worker has right to come home from the job to his or her family.”
On MUA veterans: “The union is extremely indebted to the contribution they made during their working lives. They’ve retired from the workforce, but not the struggle and I look forward to working with them and assisting them where I can.”