Creation of Australia's powerful militant workers union takes further step

Xinhua News Agency


The creation of a powerful militant workers' union in Australia is a step closer after members of the Maritime Union of Australia voted in favor of merging with the nation's Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union, local media reported Tuesday.

The merger between the two unions was publicly floated in mid-October last year, potentially creating the nation's most powerful union despite ongoing court battles and an official investigation into corrupt practices.

The Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) -- Australia's wealthiest union -- late Monday formally agreed to the proposal which condemned "the extreme political nature of the industrial offensive against Australian workers from neo-conservative commercial forces."

"The offensive includes the systematic destruction of Australian workers' rights and job security, particularly through industry policy that is destroying manufacturing and related service industries and, the systematic reduction of trade union rights in mining, hydrocarbon and construction industries in particular," the union's Principles for Amalgamation document stated.

While the MUA national secretary Paddy Crumlin welcomed the decision by the delegates, he told Australia's national broadcaster the merger would only go ahead if it was able to keep its identity and operate as a division of the much larger Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU).

"[Members} know that they're entering into a marriage," Crumlin told the ABC.

"It's like any marriage, they want to keep their personality, they don't want it to be subsumed."

The CFMEU's national executive, which represents Australia's construction industry with 90,000 members versus the MUA's 10,000, is expected to endorse the merger at its meeting later in the week, with the deal to be finalized later in the year.

Australia's employment minister Senator Michaelia Cash however argued the merger represents "a major threat to productivity, jobs growth and economic prosperity," setting the stage for an industrial relations battle in the lead up to the federal election later in the year.

"The fact that the two most militant unions in Australia are proposing to merge is extremely concerning," Cash said.

"The potential merger of further unions to cover the majority of transport logistics across Australia should concern all Australians."

The MUA was responsible for temporarily shutting down Hutchison Ports Australia's (HPA's) Brisbane and Sydney berths to overturn the sackings of workers via email and SMS messages in August 2015.