Sister Cities

Published: 15 Jul 2009

In what was considered a first for any International Longshore and Warehouse Union Convention,  last month, I was asked by "Big Bob" ILWU President to give an address on the MUA Sydney Branch proposal to form a Sister Port relationship with the Port of Seattle,  the IBU and Locals 19 and 52.

It was with great pleasure I addressed this Convention, giving our reasons why this proposal should go ahead, I spoke about how the two ports had a great maritime history and how the Port of Seattle over the years had been a port that had sent cargo from the West Coast of the United States to Sydney.  In particular older members will recall the timber vessels that brought timber from the US into Australia,  discharged mainly at Birchgrove.

The overwhelming feature of the convention for the Sydney Branch was the presentation of our Sister Ports proposal, on  June 9. The proposal was the number one item on the resolutions committee of the convention, after the proposal was put by myself and seconded by Alan Cote President of the Inlandboatmen's Union, the Marine Division of the ILWU. The resolutions committee endorsed our proposal unanimously, to go before the Convention for endorsement. The following day the whole Convention also endorsed the proposal unanimously.

Paddy Crumlin spoke on the endorsement thanking the ILWU convention for supporting the Sister Port Relationship. He encouraged other branches of the MUA to follow the lead of the Sydney Branch and form relationships with other unions around the world.


Other issues that I took a keen interest in at the convention were, the introduction of  a system similar to that being worked in a number of ports in Australia, that being One Stop. It was very interesting to hear the ILA (International Longshoremen's Association) which is the equivalent of the ILWU on the East Coast, clearly stating its total rejection of any proposal by the Stevedoring Companies to introduce this system.

The argument that was being put forward by the ILA was as follows; The ILA was not prepared to accept someone in the Mid West of the United States receiving containers for ports up and down the East Coast, when this practice has been perform by its members, it was seen by the ILA as a loss of its work and would not be tolerated.  

We in Australia should be making the same statement as the ILA, for far to long we have been seeing our work being fobbed off  by employers who get the work done cheaper by people in office blocks around Australia, depriving our members of work.


Another issue of significance and again with similarity to Australia is the opposition being expressed by the ILWU to the Transport Workers Identification Credentials (TWIC) card which is similar to our MSIC, which is yet another process in restricting people from working on the waterfront.

There are a number of issues that presently affect a large number of members of the ILWU that we here in Australia that we are able to give support in. If you are travelling to the United States or Hawaii in the near future. We ask that if one of your destinations is San Francisco, and you are considering a harbour trip to Alcatraz in San Francisco. You boycott the operator of that harbour cruise, as this operator refuses to employ members of the ILWU, and also refuses to have any dealing with the ILWU.

Another issue were our members can assist the members of the ILWU hotel division in Hawaii, is when booking accommodation you check with your travel agent that you are not being booked into hotels that refuse to have any members of the ILWU work for them, these hotels prefer to employ non-union labour rather then union labour.

The hotel that has sacked the members of the ILWU is the Pacific Beach, and is run by a company known as HTH. We ask that you boycott this hotel.

Remember 1998 and the support given by the ILWU when we needed it (Columbus Canada) now is our time to repay part of our debit to the ILWU members in San Francisco and Hawaii.

Over all the invitation to attend the 75th Convention in Seattle was greatly appreciated and the experience is not one I will soon forget.




Authorised by P Crumlin, Maritime Union of Australia, Sydney