The announcement was made at the community picket by comedian Rod Quantock just after the 11.30am (AEST) decision to the cheers from wharfies and their supporters.
Maritime Union of Australia official John Higgins said today was a historic
day for the union movement and congratulated protesters for their vigil
on East Swanson. Victorian Trades Hall secretary Leigh Hubbard said the
High Court's waterfront decision should be the end of Peter Reith's ministerial
Australia's High Court ruled Monday in the third legal judgment for the reinstatement of 2000 sacked Maritime Union of Australia members, whose sacking nearly four weeks ago has sparked a bitter industrial dispute. In the decision the High Court restored labor supply agreements Patrick had with the companies it put into administration and told the stevedores they can not use anyone other than the sacked wharfies.
The Full Bench of the Federal Court decided on April 23 that the Justice North's original decision to reinstate waterfront workers at Patrick was "free from appealable error." Patrick appealed this decision to the high court with the Howard's conservative government backing.
Thousands of union workers and supporters who had gathered at picket lines in Melbourne and Sydney erupted into cheers when the ruling was announced on national radio. "It's a complete win for the Maritime Union of Australia ... a complete victory for the 1,400 sacked workers," union lawyer Josh Bornstein said from Canberra.
With the 6-1 decision by the justices, the way is now cleared for the fired dockworkers to be rehired. Still, the court ruling gives the company some discretion over reinstating all those dismissed.
In dismissing Patrick's appeal against Justice Tony North's Federal Court order, the High Court has given priority to the power of the administrators of the companies. But Chief Justice Sir Gerard Brennan told the court it is not the High Court's ruling, but a decision to resume trading, that may see the employees return to work.
The ruling is a major setback in Prime Minister John Howard's campaign to break the hold of the maritime union over waterfront hiring. Patrick touched off a month long battle for control of the waterfront when it fired all of its unionized dock workers April 7, using private security guards and attack dogs to force them off the docks.
On the Sydney wharf at Darling Harbour, workers on day 97 of their picket line defied driving rain to celebrate the decision with rousing renditions of the union anthem "Solidarity Forever". Once the verdict was announced on live TV, beamed to the workers and leading industrial relations figures including ACTU president Jennie George addressed jubilant dock workers in Sydney after the decision.
"We've still got some way to go," she said. "We've had the rule of law rule on the side of ordinary working people against the might of corporate power and the might of government," Ms George said.
She said the decision signals the end of Mr. Reith's career. "I think it is an absolute disgrace that a Minister of the Crown could have acted in collusion with a company to get rid of an entire workforce, in breach of his own Government's laws."
New South Wales Premier Bob Carr said the High Court's ruling is a win for the people of Australia and vindicates his call for a negotiated settlement of the dispute.
Mr. Carr said it is a clear defeat for Mr. Reith, and said Mr. Reith's
position is now under threat.
"I think the establishment will get rid of Peter Reith - he led them up the garden path," Mr. Carr said.
"He promised a short war - the troop's be home by Christmas, that sort of thing, and he got bogged down and he got defeated but I don't think there should be any sort of triumphalism in the labour movement.
"We've got to see that this emerges not as a win for the MUA but as a win for Australia."
In Queensland, a crowd of more than 10,000 jammed into Brisbane's Albert Park let out a deafening cheer this morning when they heard sacked wharfies had won their legal battle for reinstatement
While most were confident of a win, the reaction to the vote was one of relief and jubilation. Wharfies and their families at today's Labour Day march in Brisbane said they are relieved and eager to get back to work. "All we want to do is get back to work and do the job that we're employed to do," one said. "I can't explain just how I'm feeling at the moment - overwhelmed and I'm sure the emotions will flow out later on during the day when it all sinks in," said another.
In Western Australia, people at the Fremantle dock were jubilant after they heard news the High Court had rejected Patrick Stevedores' appeal against a Federal Court order. They cheered loudly when the court delivered its decision and chanted their now well known cry: "MUA - here to stay."
The union's assistant national secretary, Paddy Crumlin, said it is
a great day for the workers of Australia.
The protesters then marched up to the police lines at the Patrick gate and Mr. Crumlin made a plea for them to be allowed in.