Wharfies offer the shirts off their backs

Published: 9 Apr 2009

In Brisbane wharfies at the Patrick terminal offered to give the shirts off their backs if the company would give the money they saved on workplace issue clothing to the Victorian bushfire appeal. It was Patrick Terminal member Chris Vane who first suggested that members volunteer to forgo their next workplace clothing on the proviso the company donates the money. But Deputy Branch Secretary Trevor Munday reports local management now prefers a suggestion from members to donate a sick day instead.

In Sydney Deputy Branch Secretary Glen Wood reports both DP World and Patrick wharfies agreed to donate $50 each, with the Patrick workers also donating last years Christmas bonus/company gift vouchers of $50. In total Patrick Port Botany wharfies raised $42,000, he reports.

In Melbourne Patrick and DP World terminal workers agreed to donate $100 and $50 respectively. This became a national fundraiser, with DP World deducting members' donation from their pay and matching the donations with their own dollar for dollar. Nationwide DP World staff, including MUA members, raised $38,000, with the company honouring its pledge bringing the total to $76,000. This has gone directly into the Red Cross Appeal.

The Victoria Branch has also collected $16,500 from vessels and individuals to date. MUA crew on board the Geobay donated $2,820 and the SeaRoad Tamar $750, while the Spirit of Tasmania 1, Lindsay Clarke crew and the Appleton Dock Social Club all raised $1,000 donations.

Members on board the Spirit of Tasmania II, the Pacific Protector, Neptune Trident, Bass Trader, Melbourne Tugs, Victorian Reliance, PB Towage, Far Strait, Melbourne Port Services, Pacific Protector and Neptune Trident all raised $500 donations.

Pensioners in the MUA Veterans' Association, Victoria Branch donated $200.

Other shipboard donations include the Tas Achiever, $1,000, Vigness, $2,000, Helix, $1,000, Inswift, $1,563; Fidelity, $1,000, NW Sanderling, $1,000 and the Sydney Ferries rolling fund raised $,5000.

In Adelaide one member Paul Scragg, casual wharfie, personally assisted co-ordinating stock feed relief, while Branch Secretary Jamie Newlyn reports Svitzer Tugs Adelaide donated $500 from their rolling fund and a DP World BBQ held a fundraiser for the appeal.

"A Branch SMS with details of the Credit Union account has been distributed along with emails and we have had a steady stream of inquiries," he said. "The Branch is also donating $1000."

In Newcastle, the Branch has taken $3,500 in donations.

WA members have individually donated to the local Credit Union, with 17 members donating $1,570.

MUA Deputy National Secretary Jim Tannock has been co-ordinating the appeal with Victorian Deputy Dave Schleibs.

"We've had individual donations of $200-$300," said Dave. "Some of up to $1,000. People are really supportive."
National Secretary Paddy Crumlin called for a national union fund to collect donations for the Red Cross Appeal within days of the fires that have now taken over 200 lives and wiped whole townships from the map of Victoria.

"As you are all aware a number of Victoria communities have been subjected to catastrophic property damage and loss of human life along with injuries from the worst bushfires the country has ever seen," Paddy Crumlin said in a circular to branches on February 9. "Whole communities have been destroyed."

MUA member and professional diver Peter Gray lost everything he owned in the fires. He also very nearly lost his wife and daughters. Peter was in Tasmania on a holiday when he heard of the danger and rang his wife in Glenburn, Victoria on the Saturday. Horrified, he heard the roar of the firestorm engulfing the house as the phone went dead. For two long hours before phones were restored he thought he had lost his wife and family. They survived but nine of his close friends perished in the inferno (see opposite).

The union donated $2,000 to the family, with another $5,000 coming in from divers’ rolling funds, the CSOVenturer and the Teknik.

"The ACTU and individual unions including ITF affiliates have been quick to establish appeal funds and it is the intention to have employers at least match the donations of union members," said Paddy Crumlin.
The International Transport Workers' Federation is directing donations from international affiliates to the ACTU.

"The ITF family have watched the news of the bushfires in your country with growing horror," said ITF Secretary David Cockroft. "It is difficult to believe the speed and scale of death and destruction. We can only begin to guess at how it must feel for those closer to the tragedy, as well as those personally affected."

The Maritime Union of New Zealand donated $1,000 and the South African Transport and Allied Workers Union sent $500 directly to the union appeal, with other ITF affiliates donating directly to the ACTU Red Cross Appeal, where unions and workers can donate through the website.

Australian unions pledged at least $250,000 through the ACTU but actual donations have already far exceeded the goal reaching $2 million, including a $1 million donation from the CFMEU as well as $7,500 from Japanese unions and $24,650 from the United Steelworkers of the USA.

"Australian unions stand ready to support members including emergency service personnel involved in fighting the fires in Victoria and elsewhere, the healthcare and government workers caring for the many thousands of people affected, the media workers who are covering the events as they are unfolding and countless others caught up in this horror," said ACTU President Sharan Burrow.

"Union members are encouraged to take up a collection in their workplace, and to ensure that employers at least match whatever is raised."

Members wishing to assist should do so via:

The Maritime Mining & Power Credit Union:
BSB No. 802884, Account No. 4626 S2 (reference: Victoria Bushfire Fund)

ACTU information on union donations, letters from international unions and a link to send messages of support to fire fighters can be found at http://www.actu.asn.au/bushfireappeal