The MUA National Conference today unanimously passed a motion to authorise the union to enter merger negotiations with the CFMEU.
MUA National Secretary Paddy Crumlin hailed the unanimous vote as a “historic day for the union”.
“This decision has the potential to transform the labour movement in Australia.”
“This is the beginning of a great journey. We will go forward together as a genuine united front.”
Mr Crumlin told the conference that any amalgamation would preserve the distinctive culture, name and identify of the Maritime Union.
“We’ve got good democratic structures. We’ve got our own leaders, who are democratically elected. We’ve got our own cultures and traditions, whether it’s on the wharf or on ships, which we don’t want to lose.
“We want to be the MUA. You can’t be the MUA here to stay and then go somewhere.
“We want to be the MUA - as part of the great strength of a union that’s going to be able to protect maritime workers in the way they need to protected, deserve to be protected and will be protected.”
Mr Crumlin said the full proposal would be put to the membership ballot in 2016 or 2017.
CFMEU National Secretary, Michael O'Connor, speaking at the conference, welcomed the vote as a "great result".
"The resolution that was carried will be welcomed by the CFMEU when its executive meets later this week,” he said.
MUA National President and WA Secretary Christy Cain highlighted the strong solidarity links between the two unions, which goes back generations.
“I reminded members who may not have been around for the 1998 struggle, when the government and Patrick tried to break this union, that there would be no MUA today without the CFMEU in that struggle,” Mr Cain said.
“We need to be as one – unions that can fight. And I can think of no better union – and I don’t say this lightly – no better union - that can fight with us against employers, ombudsmen, and governments than the CFMEU.”
Dave Noonan, National Secretary of the Construction Division of CFMEU, spoke of the shared history between the two great unions.
“From 1998 to the Hutchison dispute, from the anti-apartheid struggles, to Indonesian Independence, freedom for East Timor to the fight for land rights in our owns country - these are the struggles that have defined our unions.” Mr Noonan said.
“Under this government the working class is facing the biggest attack its ever faced.”
Michele O’Neil, National Secretary of the Textile Clothing and Footwear Union addressed the conference. The textile union is currently also in merger talks with the CFMEU.
Ms O’Neil spoke of the proud history of the textile union over 146 years, and reported on the union’s sophisticated and effective campaign methods.
“We are a union with a lot of heart and a lot of street smarts – we are able to use every possible tactic at our persuasion to win,” she said.
Ms O’Neil gave a shout out to the MUA women at the conference, who vocally welcomed the inclusion of the textile workers in the talks.
Tony Maher, National Secretary of the CFMEU Mining and Energy Division ridiculed the conspiracy theories.
“It’s something that’s actually quite natural. The getting together of like minded unions. What could be more sensible?” he said.