It's Our Turn! QUBE Conference, May 2023

Published: 13 May 2023



It’s Our Turn – Wharfies united in campaign for wage justice and respect from Qube

13 May 2023

Qube workers from across every MUA branch in Australia met in Fremantle for three days, May 9-11, to plan out the claims and bargaining strategy for the next Qube EBA.

Preparations are being made a long way out from the expiry of members' current agreements. This is partly due to the potential for negotiations to be impacted by the recently introduced intractable bargaining laws but also to ensure maximum levels of organisation and preparedness across every Qube site. 

The conference undertook a number of preparatory tasks and laid out a detailed campaign plan to deal with this incredibly difficult employer. Delegates unanimously endorsed the campaign plan and log of claims to be put to Qube and fought for in the next EBA. 

The MUA’s Deputy National Secretary Warren Smith said, “This was an incredibly united meeting with wharfies Australia-wide planning their fight back against the complete disrespect with which they are treated by Qube. The conference slogan was It’s Our Turn and the clear and obvious determination to achieve collective justice was evident from every delegate at the conference. It was an amazing show of unity and militant resolve to fight back against Qube’s astonishing and rapacious corporate greed.”

The conference agenda extended past the traditional log of claims approach and resulted in highly significant displays of international and national trade union unity as elements of a far reaching campaign. 

Strong solidarity support has been given to this campaign from the MUA’s national leadership. MUA National Secretary and ITF President Paddy Crumlin led the international discussion along with ITF and IDC representatives giving their full commitment to the struggle. International guests included Enrico Tortolano ITF Dockers coordinator, Jordi Aragunde IDC International Labour Coordinator along with Paul McAleer ITF Asia Pacific dockers coordinator and Paul Keating MUA Sydney Branch Secretary and IDC Asia Pacific coordinator who both attended the full conference.

Dennis Daggett the IDC General Coordinator sent a strong message of solidarity to the meeting via video. Craig Harrison National Secretary of the Maritime Union of New Zealand (MUNZ) also participated in the full conference reflecting the extremely close ties between the MUA and MUNZ who are in their own battles with ISO who are owned by Qube.

Christy Cain CFMMEU National Secretary and Zach Smith CFMEU Construction Division National Secretary gave solidarity to Qube wharfies clearly outlining that any struggle between Qube and the MUA is also their struggle and the whole union will be there to back wharfies in as the campaign unfolds.

A strong commitment to supply chain solidarity was given by guests Nick McIntosh, Transport Workers Union (TWU) Assistant National Secretary, and Shayne Kummerfield, the Rail, Tram and Bus Union (RTBU) Assistant National Secretary, in a session on supply chain solidarity held with MUA Deputy National Secretary Warren Smith. Both the RTBU and the TWU deal with Qube on behalf of their members – transport and railway workers – and report equally difficult relations with this growing corporate entity. 

The three unions will be working towards a solidarity pact against Qube’s treatment of all workers along the supply chain. The principle of standing by each other was well articulated by the three unions.

A session on safety revealed how Qube’s talk did not match their walk as National Safety and Training officer Justin Timmins explored safety campaigning across all ports as part of the broader Qube campaign. He was backed in by CFMMEU National Organiser James Simpson who passed on the solidarity and organising message on safety from our construction comrades.

The conference elected the National Part A Negotiating Team along with a broader EBA Campaign Committee which will report back to the broader delegate structure through the rank and file based National Qube Campaign Leadership Council.

There is no doubt that the widely felt sentiment across all ports is that it is indeed our turn, and the unity and solidarity shown by all will place our Union in an exceptional position to fight back against Qube, a company which has been making huge profits against the backdrop of workers' eroding purchasing power wages through inflation (in no small part driven by Qube’s contribution to the profit driven economic pain all workers and their families are experiencing).



Authorised by P Crumlin, Maritime Union of Australia, Sydney