The MUA was front and centre of the ACTU NextGen 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. (Read all the way through for SA Branch Members reports)
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.
Jamie Newlyn, SA Branch Secretary
Same Fight New Moves was the theme of this conference dealing with struggles confronting the Labour movement in Australia and Globally.
The SA branch was represented by 5 Rank and File members, the Branch Secretary and Branch Organiser. There are many important issues facing the union movement and working people in general including proliferation of Labour Hire & casualisation, The ABCC, Wage Theft, Penalty Rate Cuts and Exploitation of Foreign workers, this conference highlighted the successful campaigns and strategies needed to win now and in the future.
MUA National Secretary Paddy Crumlin gave a powerful speech in a presentation dealing with “taking the initiative and fighting back”. Paddy used his great knowledge of the global labour movement to articulate what the Labour movement needs to do to challenge capital and reinstate union (our) power.
The conference emphasised the unfair power Big Business and Corporations have over governments and workers lives, reaping profits at the expense of workers pay rises and conditions. 1100 delegates at the conference resolved to “Change the Rules” and we all left with a campaign kit to launch us into action to not only dump the Turnbull Liberal Government at the next election but change the narrative so that future governments create laws that respect Workers Rights! Will YOU join us to Change the Rules! (Contact the branch if you want to get involved in getting rid of this anti worker government)
Campbell Duignan, SA Branch Organiser
NexGen17 was a great chance to be together with 1100 other Australasian trade unionists and learn from each other. In fact, key note speakers from the US, Canada and Hong Kong meant we could learn from the union experience in all these countries. And- surprise, surprise- workers and unions right around the world face a common set of challenges.
At the heart of these challenges are wealthy and powerful corporations focussed on getting wealthier and more powerful at the expense of workers, their families, and unions. And politicians all too willing to make rules to make this happen.
Keynote speaker Richard Denniss- Chief Economist from The Australia Institute- described this process beautifully in an easy to follow speech. At the guts of it wealthy individuals and corporates are all about self-interest.
Denniss said “When business leaders talk about what’s good for the economy all they are actually talking about is what’s good for them. When the Government is running a surplus, the Corporations want tax cuts. Because obviously the Government is taxing them too much. And when the Government is running a deficit-guess what? That’s right- they want tax cuts – so they can stimulate the economy.”
Sound familiar? It should do, because that is the exactly what the Federal Government is arguing now. Corporations need $60 billion in tax cuts to save our economy. Yeah, right!!
ACTU Secretary Sally MacManus spoke too and highlighted how broken the industrial relations system is. Companies making mega-profits, wages stagnating, workers getting ripped off, penalty rates being reduced, etc, etc. We need to be clear as to what’s needed to fix it and win enough community and political support to make it happen.
It was great to have 7 of us attending from the MUA in SA and for all of us to be together with National Secretary Paddy Crumlin at the conference dinner. Bob Hawke leading 1200 dinner guests in a rousing version of ‘Solidarity Forever’ was brilliant.
Robert Duffield – Stevedore, Flinders Ports Container Terminal
I was very impressed with the organisation and layout of the whole event. Workshops, keynote speakers and facilities could not have been better.
It was really interesting getting together with members from other branches of the MUA as well as other unions. Being able to sit at tables and hear them discuss their issues really helped to highlight the hurdles that all of us will be facing in the coming years.
Having the majority of my elected workshops in the OH&S stream, it really highlighted to me that as a workforce (FACT) we are well ahead of the curve in regards to safety representatives and delegate training.
The most important thing that I took away from the whole event was a sense that unions in this country need to adapt to the changing environment of a hostile Anti-worker government and technological advances.
Given this, it is understandable why the theme of the convention was 'Change the Rules'.
Again thank you for bringing me along and well done to all involved in helping set up such and amazing event.
Brett Larkin – SA MUA Branch Committee, Flinders Adelaide Container Terminal Delegate and HSR
The ACTU NexGen17 conference exceeded my expectations. The agenda focused on 10 main issues and included workshops and plenary sessions. Being able to pre book workshops allowed me to focus my sessions around WHS, injured workers, technological change and rebalancing the system. Attending the WHS sessions reassured me the MUA are ahead of the game when it comes to workers safety.
The Conference slogan was 'Change the Rules'. Leaders from the Union movement all across Australia spoke, and from many different collective movements across the world. The message was clear," Same Fight, New Moves".
Australian workers should stand together and be confident that the ACTU have a genuine plan to re write our broken Industrial Relations laws. The big end of town getting tax cuts, while workers penalty rates and conditions are under constant attack is simply wrong and it's time to change the rules.
It was a great conference, and I now truly believe that if workers stick together and protest collectively on the streets, in their workplaces and tell the stories to their friends and families the laws should and will be changed.
Todd Stennett – Flinders Logistics Delegate
I was fortunate to represent the SA Branch at the ACTU NexGen17 conference and I thoroughly enjoyed the experience.
I found it to be a very beneficial educational event for which I met hundreds of like-minded people in similar working roles as myself but also people from all walks of life and working roles. I found the diversity of professions opened my mind to a broader spectrum of issues that affect the everyday working Australians.
I am proud to be a part of this movement and look forward to attending events such as this in the near future.
Alex Smith – Youth Committee, Seafarer
I was privileged to represent the youth and seafaring rank and file membership of the SA Branch at the NexGen17 Conference in Sydney. A motivating opening address by ACTU secretary Sally McManus set a strong tone, for not only the few days ahead at the conference but for the days and months ahead in our fight for a fairer Australia for all.
Inequality has never been more prevalent in our society than it is today; just 1% of Australians have as much wealth as the bottom 70%. A shocking and lopsided statistic that highlights an unfair and unjust system that caters only for a minority within our country. This trend isn’t unique to Australia it continues around the globe and the gap is widening. Throughout the conference we heard from many fabulous unionists who are leading the way in pushing back against it.
There were approximately one thousand reps, organisers and branch officials making up our union delegation as affiliates of the ACTU. We split up into various workshops to target and further dissect key organising issues and better understand the challenges we face as a movement.
Presentations by the likes of Jess Sanders, the National Campaign Coordinator for Big Steps, highlighted the importance of mobilising the workforce in a way that gains positive public support whilst still sending clear, stern messages to the employer and parliament.
There’s a need to innovate and collaborate in a way we haven’t before. To learn from fellow unionists in industries that seem very different to our own but in fact face all of the same fundamental challenges and inequalities. We must continue to find common ground, unite and speak a language that resonates with the public and working class. The rules are broken and we are all fed up. We need to change the rules!
Mark Scutella – Qube Delegate
Given the opportunity to attend the NextGen conference was a very good experience for myself. I had the chance to meet many types of union officials and delegates from Australia and abroad.
I feel that I certainly took a lot away from workshops and this has given me a new perception towards how I use my skills in dealing with my employer in day to day issues.
Meeting and hearing different stories about people’s lives in the workforce certainly opened my eyes about how we all need to continue the work towards our conditions at work.
I certainly believe that this was time well spent and I would look forward to doing this again