Non-union labour fails on Aussie wharf
South News 13 April

Melbourne: A picket line of thousands turned back two trucks bound for Patrick's terminal at Melbourne's East Swanson dock today.

Two white unmarked trucks with the insigna "Night Moves", carrying ANL refrigerated containers, were turned around by an angry demonstration at 4pm today. No containers have got in or out of Patrick facilities in Melbourne since the sackings of unionists on Tuesday night.

The picket numbers have grown at successive attempts to get cargo in or out. On Friday 300 protestors turned back a cargo train. On Saturday morning with a thousand protestors at East Swanson docks the trucks failed to show. Today with less than two hours notice the Maritime Union mustered some 5000 people to protest the sackings of 2000 unionists.

Supporters at Swanson Dock said the battle was vital for the future of Australian unionism. Ms Kathy Jackson, a branch secretary of the Health Services Union, said the HSU would consider giving "tens of thousands of dollars" to the MUA fighting fund at its national executive meeting this month.

"If there was ever going to be a dispute that would unite every union and every individual unionist, it would be this one," she said. "If you break the strongest union, what hope would we have? Workers recognise this is Patrick and the Federal Government versus the workers."

MUA national organiser Mick O'Leary says the container vessel "Conship London" left Melbourne's East Swanson Dock today after a painfully slow unloading process at a rate 2.4 containers an hour - a rate 10 times slower than the usual rate. Mr O'Leary said one ship at berth at  was unloaded by non-union labor in 83 hours.

He said unionists could have unloaded the ship in 36 to 48 hours. "I don't know how long the shipping community will put up with the type of delays that are occurring by virtue of the inefficiency and the non-capacity these people have to perform in any great shape," Mr O'Leary said.The ship left the port without cargo in apparent disgust at the waste of time.

In Sydney, hundreds of supporters of sacked dockers were settling in for a long night at Port Botany to make sure the first cargo unloaded by non-union labour in Sydney since World War II did not move off the wharf.

Several hundred union activists from around the world attending the Asia-Pacific solidarity conference marched through the city to Patrick's Darling Harbour Terminal.  Philippines unionist Sonny Melencio told Sydney picketers "The Filipino workers will be holding a protest rally in front of the Australian Embassy."

Also at the picket included union representatives from New Zealand,  Indonesia, South Korea, the United States, Spain, France, Turkey, Germany and Japan had joined the picket, a Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) official said.

The Maritime Union (MUA) has further released a memo in which Patrick Stevedores commends its former union Townsville employees for a world class performance. In a memo from Keith Hamilton, the company's Queensland manager the company urges waterfront workers to "please keep up the good work" Less than eight weeks after it was written all the men were sacked.

"Why were they actually sacked?" said Jim Tannock from the union Mr Tannock said many of the workers heard of their sacking from press reports

In Canberra in other developments yesterday, Derek Corrigan, younger brother of union-buster Chris Corrigan has condemned the sacking of Patrick's workers. According to the Australian newspaper Derek Corrigan had an instant reaction when he first heard his sibling explain his side of the waterfront dispute.

"He couldn't lie straight in bed," Derek told his family. "I don't think my father wanted to talk to me for a week but in the end he apologised to me," he said yesterday, in a public condemnation of the tactics blamed for splitting families across the country.

"I didn't think Christopher would go as far as he has, but when he went and sacked his whole workforce, I felt ill. ... I think the whole Australian way of life is under threat. The balance of power has shifted totally to the right, and to the extreme right in my view."

Derek is a senior technical officer at the Australian National University and is a shop steward there for the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union. He claimed his brother had a long-standing goal to sack his union workforce and neuter organised labour on the waterfront.

Mr Corrigan's brother accused him of orchestrating a union-breaking exercise aimed at making Australians work for Third World wages.  "It's a major attack on the social fabric of this country which will have severe repercussions for all employees," said Derek Corrigan

The Federal Opposition claims the Government's determination to carry out radical industrial reform on the waterfront is endangering Australia's export industries. Opposition spokesman on trade, Senator Peter Cook, fears 300,000 jobs in export industries will be hit as the dispute widens.

"That's what the Government has created, a dispute in which all exports in this nation are now under a question mark if not immediately in jeopardy," Mr Cook said.

The Australian Democrats is arguing the Government's backing of Patrick has added to concerns that employees' jobs in all industries are not safe.

The head of the Anglican church in South Australia has criticised the Federal Government over its handling of the waterfront dispute. Archbishop Ian George says he is very disturbed at the level of confrontation and believes very little effort has been made to bring all the parties to the negotiating table.

"I mean, this is a great Easter time, and for most Australians it's something to do with peace and reconciliation, and here we have this major confrontation," he said. "If the Government has all the cards with its new legislation, I can't understand why more can't be achieved through negotiation."