MUA to merge with CFMEU to form superunion

By: Rob McKay

ALC expresses deep concern as unions seek political heft with strong amalgamation vote that includes TCFUA

MUA to merge with CFMEU to form superunion
MUA members celebrate the vote


A new superunion is being formed with a hard-line profile.

The Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) says its members voted 87 per cent in favour of a merger with the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU).

The announcement comes 20 months after MUA members voted to explore the link.

"It has been a ballot on the preservation of our strong and historical maritime union and the progressive politics and policies that underpin our activities and direction while building a united industrial and political front to ensure that identity and those achievements over generations are preserved and built on at a time of massive and sustained attack from conservative and anti trade union vested interest and elitism," MUA national secretary Paddy Crumlin tells members.

The two unions are to be joined by the Textile Clothing and Footwear Union of Australia (TCFUA), which posted a 97 per cent vote in favour.

"This is at the core of trade union and labour rights – individual member exercising their democratic decision making and democratic control of their union," Crumlin states.

"Our members have spoken: they want a strong, independent and progressive union.

"This vote sets a new course for the amalgamated union.

"It makes us more diverse and representative in so many ways.

"It increases the number of women in our union, it make us more culturally diverse, it expands the industries in which we work on a day to day basis and it opens us up to new challenges and new opportunities.

"It ensures that we will continue to reflect the great trade union and national heritage of building diversity along with economic, industrial, political, and social needs of working women and men in their Australian community."

The unions involved say the number of members who participated in the ballot was "at historically high levels".

"This vote sends a clear message to the Turnbull government to respect not undermine the democratic decisions of union members in the running of their unions," CFMEU national secretary Michael O’Connor says.

"It’s a total repudiation of suggestions by the government that this was not in those members’ interests.

"Those members have spoken unequivocally and with overwhelming determination on where their interests reside."

ALC concern

The move comes much to the dismay of the Australian Logistics Council (ALC), which warns consumers and economy will suffer if the proposed merger "is allowed to proceed.

Such a merger "would grant an industrial monopoly over the nation’s supply chains to a union behemoth", ALC MD Michael Kilgariff says. 

"Proposed mergers and acquisitions by businesses are subject to strict review by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission [ACCC] as part of Australia’s competition law framework.

"This occurred in the freight logistics industry in 2016, when the ACCC played a significant role in the acquisition of Asciano by several different parties.

"The competition law principles that apply to businesses should apply equally to unions.

"A mega-union would likely be controlled by individuals who have previously demonstrated precious little concern for the rule of law, freight efficiency or the viability of businesses.

"All too often, the nation’s freight logistics operators have been subjected to petty and disruptive behaviour from rogue unions at ports and other key freight facilities. Their pursuit of an industrial agenda frequently causes lengthy delays to freight movement.

"These delays result in higher shipping costs, ultimately leading to higher consumer prices being paid by everyone - including those working people unions claim to represent.

"Permitting the CFMEU and the MUA to merge into a single entity would merely embolden them and encourage further militancy. An all-powerful mega-union would undoubtedly seek to exploit its power by causing mayhem across our supply chains."

But the ALC wants action on other fronts as well, given the ongoing high militancy the unions have displayed.

"Ensuring that our workplace laws operate effectively is a vitally important aspect of securing greater efficiency," Kilgariff says.

"A massive militant union capable of disrupting all parts of the supply chain poses a grave threat to that objective, and to the strength of an Australian economy that is increasingly reliant on exports."

"ALC strongly encourages the Federal Government to progress legislation designed to subject the proposed merger to a public interest test as a matter of the highest priority. Doing so will be an important part of ensuring the National Freight and Supply Chain Strategy is able to achieve its objectives."

VICT action

Meanwhile, an MUA action has been held at the highly-automated Victoria International Container Terminal (VICT), where the Australian Maritime Officers Union (AMOU) has coverage, with Victoria Police keeping an eye on developments.

"Victoria Police is aware of an ongoing protest at a wharf in Port Melbourne," a police spokesperson tells ATN yesterday.

"The safety of the Victorian community is the highest priority for Victoria Police.

"Police will monitor the protest in order to maintain public safety but at this stage there have been no incidents. 

"Victoria Police respects people’s right to protest peacefully, but will not tolerate those who break the law."

VICT is owned by International Container Terminals Inc (ICTSI), which the union claims is undermining conditions internationally and locally, but its union agreement has been seen as a setback for the MUA.


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