New cross-Tasman maritime worker federation to bolster MUA and MUNZ power in Kiwi and Australian ports

Published: 29 Feb 2024




29 FEBRUARY 2024


New cross-Tasman maritime worker federation to bolster MUA and MUNZ power in Kiwi and Australian ports

At the Maritime Union of Australia’s National Conference in Adelaide the MUA and the Maritime Union of New Zealand (MUNZ) announced a new federation bringing together the two unions in a formal arrangement to build workers'  power at ports throughout Australia and New Zealand.

Speaking at the announcement, National Secretary of the MUA Paddy Crumlin explained that a formal arrangement was the next logical step for the two unions after many decades of closely working together on workplace, safety, geopolitical and industrial challenges facing maritime workers in both countries.

“The fraternal bonds that link our two unions are some of the closest, oldest and most durable in the trade union movement, and given we are working in an increasingly globalised workplace and standing up against some of the same bosses, it makes perfect sense to expand and bolster the strength of our Unions through a formalised federation,” Crumlin said.

MUA National Secretary, Paddy Crumlin, moves the resolution to enter a new federation with MUNZ at the MUA's National Conference in Adelaide, 2024

The Maritime Union of Australia, formed in 1993, is an amalgamation of the old Waterside Workers Federation and the Seamen’s Union of Australia. The MUA, through its predecessor Unions has been an immovable force on the Australian waterfront and around our coastline for 151 years. Likewise, in 2002, MUNZ was formed through the amalgamation of two unions, covering wharfies and seafarers, that trace their histories in New Zealand to the 19th century.

“The history of maritime industries was one of casual labour, injury and death on the job, and ruthless employers who wouldn’t cede an inch to their workers,” said Craig Harrison, the MUNZ National Secretary.

“Our members had to fight for and defend their right to secure, permanent jobs, a decent wage and safe conditions of work. We have stood together to improve the lot of working people and their communities since those early days and we now look towards an even stronger presence on the waterfront and on our ships across the Asia Pacific through this federation with the MUA,” Harrison said.

Craig Harrison, National Secretary of MUNZ, addressing the MUA National Conference in Adelaide, 2024

The expansion of global network terminal operators and the voracious appetite of big employers like Qube for swallowing up smaller stevedoring operators across New Zealand has made the federation an obvious strategic step for the two unions to take together. The Australian Federal Government’s strategic shipping fleet commitment will also deliver significant trans-Tasman capacity and new training and employment opportunities in both Australian and New Zealand for maritime workers.

“We saw during COVID, where shipping and terminal operators manipulated vital supply chains to extract maximum profit from vulnerable countries like Australia and New Zealand that are entirely dependent on global shipping,” said Mr Crumlin. “Now the same cartel forces are organising against Australian and Kiwi communities to use the sheer brute force of capital to take control of our docks. They will jack up landside prices, control schedules and freight lanes, and drive down the working conditions and wages of our members, so the strategic importance of the relationship between the two Unions cannot be overstated,” Crumlin added.

The two Unions, together, represent tens of thousands of maritime workers. The MUA, a division of the CFMEU, has branches in every state and the Northern Territory while MUNZ has ten branches across both the North and South Islands. The two unions already attend each other’s National Council meetings and work in the strongest unified way across their shared international trade union affiliations and by sharing trade union training and standing side by side in struggle and campaigning.

Together, the MUA and MUNZ, have collaborated on a number of industrial and political campaigns and established strong fraternal bonds of solidarity between the two Unions. The ‘War on the Wharves’ charity boxing tournament, held each year to raise money for charity, is a long-standing expression of this close and important relationship.



Authorised by P Crumlin, Maritime Union of Australia, Sydney