Safety must be mandatory! – Australian maritime workers step up action after recent tragic death

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ON Wednesday, 18 June, Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) members will take action in Sydney to draw attention to the safety crisis in stevedoring.

The union is stepping up its Waterfront Safety Campaign after the recent death of Anthony Attard, tragically killed in Melbourne last month.

The rally will target a major affiliate of the Australian Logistics Council, who publicly called for stevedoring safety regulation to be scrapped on the very day of Anthony’s funeral. Get on board, it’s going to be a big one!

Rally for Waterfront Safety will be on 18 June 2014. At 3pm buses will depart MUA office, 365 Sussex St, Sydney. At 4pm there will be a rally at 3/5 Uhrig Rd, Homebush Bay (right next to ANZ Stadium). Members are welcome to join in to watch State of Origin at a city venue after the rally.

This latest tragedy highlights why the union must fight to make sure that safety is mandatory. There is a safety crisis in stevedoring. These tragedies are not ‘accidents’. There are causes. That’s why regulation is needed.

Since he was elected, Tony Abbott has dismantled safety regulation. The Abbott Government has blocked the Stevedoring Code of Practice, and twelve other life-saving codes of practice, which it describes as ‘red tape’.

The Abbott government has instructed AMSA to begin dismantling Marine Order 32, the safety bible for wharfies for over 80 years. This is a disgrace and will worsen the carnage. Members are advised to prepare for a sharp escalation of the campaign.

• Meanwhile, more than 20,000 trade unionists and youth marched through Melbourne last Thursday in protest against savage cuts contained in the Abbott government’s budget.

Leading officials from the CFMEU, the National Union of Workers, the Electrical Trades Union, the Plumbers Union, the Maritime Union and the Australian Services Union were among those leading the march.

‘Bust the budget’ marchers waved flags and carried placards with slogans decrying its ‘pro-big business and anti-working people’ message. The crowd was watched closely by a large police presence on the steps of Parliament.

United Voice, the union representing some of Australia’s lowest-paid workers in industries such as hospitality and care for the aged, told the crowd that ‘we deserve a government that supports us, not hurts us’.

United Voice state secretary Jess Walsh said: ‘We are out on the streets today because we’re angry at a government who wants to make us work harder and work longer for less money.

‘And we are angry at a government who wants to make us only be able to go to the doctor if we can afford to pay, a prime minister who wants to deny our children to go to university, to better themselves and to have hope for the future. And looking around the streets of Melbourne today, I don’t think we are alone.’

Kevin Bracken, of the Maritime Union of Australia, led a minute’s silence in honour of dock worker Anthony Attard, 42, who was crushed to death at the Port of Melbourne last month.

He said: ‘The government’s attack on red tape is an attack on safety.’

CFMEU national secretary Michael O’Connor said the federal government was killing off Australian jobs while undermining the ‘fair go’ and the democratic right to organise.

He told the crowd: ‘We have never before seen a government try to destroy the jobs of Australians like this government has.’

ACTU secretary Dave Oliver said he feared the federal government’s ‘cruel budget’ would lead to a growing US-style class of working poor and wrecking Australians’ way of life.

He told the rally that Thursday’s march was ‘only the beginning of the fight back’ and unions would fiercely fight any effort to reintroduce Howard-era WorkChoices industrial relations policies under another name.

He slammed federal premier Abbott for appearing in a hard hat and a fluorescent vest throughout the election campaign before he ‘turned his back’ on workers at Holden, SPC, Qantas and Australia Post.

In a pre-rally statement, the ACTU said: ‘Tony Abbott’s Budget is an attack on the Australian way of life. Australian workers built a way of life that is the envy of the world. But the first Abbott Government Budget has begun to demolish the pillars that have made our country great.

‘The 2014 Federal Budget takes a wrecking ball to the social wage, with cuts to healthcare, education and pensions. Under the Abbott Government, going to the doctor or filling the car with petrol will cost more.

‘This is a government delivering for their big business mates by make life harder for working people.

‘It’s time to fight back and bust the Budget.

‘We have taken on powerful interests before and won a better life for working people. By standing together and fighting for what truly matters we have the power to beat back Tony Abbott and his radical agenda.

‘We are committed to winning this fight and look forward to standing with you to defend the Australian way of life.’

The Federal Budget 2014 – at a glance:

• Young unemployed without income support for six months a year

• 16,500 public sector jobs to go, with more through privatisation

• Super Guarantee increase delayed four years; frozen at 9.5%

• Redundancy entitlements less protected when employers go bust

• Cuts to indexation for many welfare payments

• Temporary 2% income tax levy for highest income earners

• Family payments cut

• PPL scheme survives, capped at $50,000 over six months

• New $7 GP payment & higher co-payment for prescription drugs

• Big cuts to funding to states for health and education

• Uni fees to rise, student loan debt to attract real interest rate

• A range of industry assistance programs will be cut or axed

• Tools for Your Trade program for apprentices abolished, new loan scheme created in its place

• Twice yearly fuel excise indexation will be reintroduced

• Company tax to be cut, MRRT and carbon price abolished

• Union royal commission to cost $53.3 million.