I would much rather have been sinking a few beers with my Victorian comrades and their families celebrating the extraordinary history of our union and of the Victorian branch itself. The Victorian seafarers formed a union there in 1872 at the same time that the Sydney wharf labourers formed a union in Sydney. Both unions were known for their militancy and political and industrial activity. The vision of Victorian Seafarers and NSW Wharf Labourers was the catalyst for the formation of branch unions across the country and subsequently the Seamen’s Union of Australia and the Waterside Workers Federation representing all of those seafarers and waterside workers into single national unions.
The history is celebrated and identified as being amongst, if not the most, militant and progressive record of political and industrial achievements of any international union. The great seafarers strikes of the late 19th century and the wharf strikes of the first part of the 20th century carved out decent working and social conditions for workers in the maritime industry. It came at great cost to the families and individuals including death on Victorian docks.
Many other aspects of the long history will be celebrated there tonight; it is a record of achievement that is unbroken for that 140 years and has been translated into a continuing determination to defend and advance our working conditions along with the working conditions of other working men and women, not only in this country but internationally.
In your great hall that I have been to many times in celebration and in determination of our working rights I am there with you again tonight as much as Tassie Bull, Geoff Swayne, Bert Nolan and the many other great working class leaders that you have honoured and that form such an important part, not only of your hall but of trade union history. There are too many to mention but certainly the role of Elliott V Elliott, Jim Healy were carved predominantly into our history due to the great political vision of a fairer, more just and equal society through socialism that accompanied their generational leadership in industrial progress and working conditions.
As Vice President of the Maritime Union Kevin and together with Dave Schleibs on the National Council I have had the great honour of helping to shape the current protections and supports for maritime workers for the last 11 years as National Secretary. Also I would like to acknowledge the hard and determined work of the Victorian Branch Executive as a whole, including Dave Cushion and Bob Patchett who along with your Branch Committee and active Rank and File and wonderful hard working and extraordinarily patient staff continue to keep the Victorian Branch true to the historical directions of our great union.
So again to the very many friends of the MUA, Rank and File Members, Veterans, their wives, husbands and families lets raise our glasses to the working class and to the MUA that is Here to Stay for many generations to come.
Yours in Unity
National Secretary MUA
On behalf of all of the Officers, Staff and Members of the MUA
And President of the ITF on behalf of all International Transport Unions and their members