The Guardian • Issue #2090

Maritime Union’s Quadrennial National Conference

Adelaide 2024

Maritime Union’s Quadrennial National Conference Adelaide 2024

The Maritime Union’s Quadrennial National Conference, from 26 February to 1 March, took place at the Adelaide Convention Centre with 500 delegates from around Australia and internationally. Recognition was given to the Palestinian people’s intense struggle with $50,000 raised to assist their cause. The Palestinian Ambassador was given a particularly rousing welcome, and a powerful resolution was passed in support of the Palestinian people.

Communist Party members involved were invited to join with South Australian MUA members to reflect on the achievements of this conference as an expression of working class solidarity with an emphasis on the need for strike and struggle in opposing the recent sudden increase in the cost of living. International solidarity was seen as vital just as the bosses are organising globally. In this struggle wharfies hold a unique position and certainly hold unique power because of their contacts around the world.

Fidel’s, Party headquarters in South Australia, proved a very appropriate venue for this international meeting as part of the Port Adelaide United Workers’ Club which includes the Semaphore Workers’ Club to which the group later adjourned to enjoy some of the conviviality that only a political club can offer. Party representatives from Ireland and the United Kingdom gave disturbing insights into anti-worker actions being taken in their homelands, especially the UK which now has the most anti-worker legislation in Europe with the requirement of ballots to call a strike along with complex ‘unfair dismissal laws’ where certain workers may miss out on any protection.

Authoritarianism has become part of the Conservatives approach; for example, anti-war protesters are being denounced as “terrorists” and demonstrations banned, but this draconian approach has resulted in Labour being ten points ahead in opinion poling for the forthcoming election.

No prominent anti-war candidate has emerged in the UK despite 70 per cent public support for an immediate cease-fire in Palestine. In the UK Jewish community many viewpoints exist. Militant trade-unionists and the Communist Party are part of the substantial pro-Palestinian movement in the UK where unprecedented public demonstration are taking place, involving hundreds of thousands in London, and tens of thousands in the larger cities such as Glasgow, Liverpool and even Belfast.

As the neoliberal virus spreads around the world, the Conservatives have clung onto power since 2010, passing the Global Financial Crisis bill on to working people, resulting in high levels of child poverty, the return of diseases like tuberculosis, and social welfare being cut to the bone.

A watershed moment arrived when 10 - 25 per cent reductions in workers’ pay began taking place, and workers started being dismissed and then offered re-employment on half the wages. In addition, in 2022 came the attack on ferry workers, those who crewed ferries such as those that ran from Dover to Calais. The workers were to be replaced. Security guards with dogs greeted returning ferries and workers were issued with notices of termination. A long legal battle ensued. Preemptive strike action took place in the transport industry. In fact, this attack led to widespread strikes across the UK involving nurses and even senior doctors along with teachers and other workers who felt under threat.

The UK may seem far but is no reason why workers in Australian can consider themselves immune from such attacks on their pay and conditions. It could easily happen here!

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