Sunday, February 03, 2008

Sacked seamen win jobs back - with a wage rise!

The sacked crew of the Triton Customs boat that has been docked in Darwin for a week has been reinstated to their jobs.

The seafarers have now ended their week-long occupation of the ship.

Only three days ago, managers from the Triton’s owner, the British firm Gardline, were accusing the workers of trespass.

But now they have been reinstated to their jobs under a collective union agreement that includes wage increases over the next three years. The victorious seamen have now ended their occupation of the ship.

Fourteen seafarers lost their jobs when Gardline cancelled a contract with their employer TK Shipping to crew the ship. Eleven of the crew occupied the ship, an armed vessel contracted by the Defence Force to crack down on illegal fishers in Australian waters. (“Sacked seamen seize gunship” was the nicely alliterative heading in the Sydney Morning Herald – ah, shades of the Aurora in 1917!)

Gardline wanted to employ its own non-union crew on the ship, cutting wages by 25 percent, or nearly $20,000.

A week-long campaign by the Maritime Union culminated in crisis talks in Sydney yesterday where an agreement was hammered out to re-employ the unionised crew.

The Maritime Union says the now-resolved dispute is a landmark case in Australian industrial relations.

The union’s Mick Doleman says it is the first major victory for unions since the election of the Labor government.

“[It was] one of the most bitter disputes outside of the Patricks dispute in 1998 which happens to be the 10th anniversary this year of that dispute,” he said.

“What a timely opportunity for the seafaring area to herald a great dispute and to win it and to find justice re-established in the maritime industry in Australia.”
(The Patricks dispute was a stage-managed provocation by the Howard Government and Patrick Shipping boss Chris Corrigan to sack the entire workforce on Patrick’s wharves, replacing them with scabs. The workers, covered by the Maritime Union of Australia fought back against balaclava-wearing goons and Dobermann dogs and won an important victory. The photo, right, shows workers being reinstated on the Swanston East docks in Melbourne in 1998.)

Mick Doleman described the current dispute as a “bastard child left over from the John Howard regime”.

“This company, who tended for the work under the Work Choices regime, have learnt a very hard lesson about working with trade unions in a co-operative manner.”

“We have a document, a heads of agreement that have heralded a successful outcome, uncompromising for these members,” he said.

“Every one of them has now permanent jobs back with Gardline.

“Every one of them will now have the security of a collective, union agreement.”

The ship will set sail for Singapore tonight, and will return to patrolling Australia’s northern waters for illegal fishing boats in March.
Follow the link below to watch a statement read by the striking members of the MUA during the dispute. The video shows the men temporarily leaving the Triton and marching to a perimeter gate shouting Triton crew will see it through! and MUA - here to stay! The latter was the rallying call of the Patricks dispute in 1998 when the very existence of the MUA was threatened by Howard's goon squads.

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