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Published: 15 Oct 2022
NATIONAL SECRETARY, MARITIME UNION OF AUSTRALIA
PRESIDENT, INTERNATIONAL TRANSPORT WORKERS FEDERATION
MUA’S 150th ANNIVERSARY MARKED BY ALONGSIDE PRIME MINISTER AND INTERNATIONAL UNION DELEGATIONS
The Maritime Union of Australia’s 150th anniversary celebrations culminated this week with a gala dinner at Darling Island on Sydney Harbour, in the company of over 600 guests, including delegations from international trade unions, the head of the ACTU, Sally McManus, and Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese.
The dinner was an opportunity for the MUA’s rank-and-file members, delegates and branch officials to join together with the Union’s friends, supporters and comrades from across the broader Australian and international trade union movement to celebrate 150 years of struggle, solidarity and unity.
Speaking at the event, the Union’s National Secretary, Paddy Crumlin, said that the various struggles, setbacks and victories of the Union’s past would put it in good stead to continue standing up and fighting for working class people long into the future.
“We are proud of what we have achieved. We are proud of everything we’ve stood up for. We are proud that we are providing a strong base for working men and women to live better lives, just as we have for 150 years,” Mr Crumlin said.
“The great thing about the trade union movement and particularly our beautiful Union, is that if we made an achievement we never made it without wanting to reach out to someone else – whether it’s the union next door, or down the supply chain, or anyone else under pressure around the world. We have always had a sense in ourselves that if we’re able to win power then we can translate that not just into a better life for ourselves and our families, but a better life for our community and for our own nation, but also for a better life for international working people,” he said.
“We are the trade union movement. We have been as much a part of the Australian tradition as the ANZAC tradition. We are intelligent and aspirational. We are not selfish, we are nothing but willing to take this country and by extension this world into a better place” he said.
The event featured contributions from the Union’s veterans, led by Jim Donovan and Fred Krausert. Mr Krausert, a retired seafarer and now National President of the MUA’s Veterans, reminded the gathering that despite being retired from the job, the vets remained wholly committed to the struggle. Mr Krausert reminded the crowd of the many long, hard-won rights and entitlements that had been delivered only by collective action and solidarity in the workplace.
Mr Donovan, a former Sydney Branch secretary of the Waterside Workers Federation and now National Secretary of the MUA Veterans, recalled the many actions of international solidarity undertaken by maritime workers throughout the 20th Century, and rallied the membership to continue proudly fighting for a better world for workers and their families.
The dinner featured a number of international delegations of transport and maritime workers unions from across the globe, including the Japanese Seamen’s Union, the UK’s Rail Maritime and Transport Union, the Singapore Organisation of Seamen, the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, and the Maritime Union of New Zealand.
Speaking via video message, the ITF’s General Secretary, Stephen Cotton, highlighted the significant contribution made by the MUA that reached far beyond Australia’s shores.
“The MUA continues to fight for Australian and international seafarers through the Flag of Convenience campaign and continues to fight for decent, safe work for dockers around the globe,” Mr Cotton said. He also congratulated the MUA on recent political victories that will deliver new jobs on the Australian coast. “Your anniversary comes at a time of promise for maritime workers in Australia. Your new government represents hope for the union’s members, and the Albanese Labor Government’s promise to create an Australian-flagged and crewed strategic fleet was brought about through the MUA’s campaigning and strength,” he said.
The event concluded with an affectionate, candid and heartfelt contribution by the Australian Prime Minister, Anthony Albanese, who spoke of his great respect for the Union and his gratitude for the contribution it had made to Australia’s social and political fabric over its 150-year history.
“The MUA has been fighting for the aspirations of working people for such a long time. The journey from the Hungry Mile is an inspirational tale of adversity overcome, and an enduring lesson in the power and strength of collective action. The great truth of the story that we all share in as members of this great labour movement, is that progress is never found at the end of a smooth road. The things worth doing, the changes worth making, are always hard going, always hard fought and always hard won, but we are always better for the battle and our country is always better for the victory, and that is something our opponents have never understood,” Mr Albanese said in his remarks.
“One of the great strengths of the MUA is that it has always looked outward, to extend its solidarity to workers right around the world. You’ve always been prepared to stand up for the simple proposition that union values are universal values. That fairness, equality, dignity and safety should be the rights of workers everywhere. That’s why, through your 150 years you can be proud that when it counted, when it mattered, you stood up,” the Prime Minister added, noting the many important actions taken by wharfies and seafarers in support of international sovereign rights, for peace and for First Nations justice.