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Published: 4 Nov 2009
Council resolves to standby ILWU workers in the USA and Canada
At 7am tomorrow, Thursday Australian eastern standard time the ILWU contract covering mine workers in the California desert town of Boron, expires.
Members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union have been in a standoff with mining giant Rio Tinto over their collective agreement for six weeks. Under threat are their union rights and working conditions.
ILWU vice president Ray Familathe, special guest at the MUA council meeting underway in Sydney this week, gave a full run down on the dispute brewing with the mining giant.
“Rio Tinto just talked to the negotiating committee and international officers asking if we were going on strike,” he said. “We said we wanted to negotiate and asked if they were going to lock us out. They said they couldn’t give us an answer.”
MUA Council resolved to throw its full weight behind the ILWU miners, pledging all the financial, legal industrial and political support necessary for the workers to get a contract.
It reads: “The MUA National Council meeting on November 4, 2009, extends it complete solidarity, morally, financially and industrially to the ILWU Borax miners at Boron California who are under attack from the mining giant Rio Tinto. “Rio Tinto is attacking the miners’ wages, pensions and arbitration rights. They are using their stand over corporate tactics to thwart the legitimate rights of the unionists workforce.”
At the same time Council past a resolution in support and solidarity with ILWU Canada’s 2,400 dockworkers who are under threat as part of the Asia Pacific Gateway port development project and their contract negotiations.
“It isn’t stevedoring companies we’re up against,” said ILWU Secretary Treasurer and council guest Ken Bauder, “It’s the money managers like Macquarie, Deutsche/ING – the nickel and dime people who want to know if they’re making money. And like the ports of convenience legislation in Strasbourg, which would have eliminated all EEC collective agreements, we are looking at shipping lines wanting to eliminate dock workers in Canadian ports. The employers are moving to get the government to legislate to eliminate hiring halls. The Asia Pacific Gateway report says the only problem is labour They want non-union workers. The shipping lines are pushing for change. There’s a push us to a lock out.”
The MUA National Council resolution committed whatever MUA support and solidarity that may be required to achieve an acceptable contract that protects job security and promotes decent working conditions for the workers concerned.
TRICK OR TREAT
Meanwhile at the Boron mine Rio is threatening the ILWU with strikebreakers.
Last month an Australian delegation to the Sydney Seattle sister ports ceremony at the ILWU Inland boatmen’s Union National Convention also took time out to visit the Boron workers at the mine site in a show of global union solidarity.
Mining and Maritime have also pledged support.
Rio’s response came on October 31, Halloween.
The company hired vanloads of security guards to storm the mine. Helicopters flew overhead.
“When Rio Tinto wants to throw a party, the sky’s the limit, because they made $3.7 billion in profits last year, and took in another $2.5 billion over the past six months,” an ILWU bulletin reported. “The company’s extreme contact demands, designed to wreck our jobs and destroy our union, are going nowhere. They thought we’d cave in. They were wrong.”
Workers at the mine are demanding a wage an increase that will redress their loss of earning power over the past five years and defending their pensions from the company axe. They also seek improvements in sick leave and medical benefits the company has been eroding.
Ray Familathe told Council that 97 per cent of ILWU workers voted to strike if necessary. “The rank and file are rock solid, knowing unions around the world are ready to lend support,” he said.