|The International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) and International Longshoremen’s Association (ILA) had a high-level meeting in Washington, D.C. on 12 September, which was also attended by ITF president and Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) national secretary Paddy Crumlin and ITF maritime coordinator Steve Cotton.
Mr Crumlin reported on the events leading up to Patrick Stevedores’ decision to fully automate its Port Botany Terminal in Australia. Mr Crumlin said announcement of the decision took place shortly after the company entered into a new contract with the union, having not given the union any notice during the contract negotiations of the massive reduction proposed to the workforce. Patrick management contended it was not obliged to do so and would execute the change without any formal agreement with the union.
The meeting was unanimous in condemnation of this approach to introducing this type of change. The meeting determined that formal agreement between management and union had to be finalised before any further automation could take place in workplaces covered by the unions in attendance. The meeting determined that any other approach was effectively a form of union busting. To ensure that was not the case, mutually agreed outcomes on job security, retraining, union coverage of all new jobs created by the automation, and improvements to working conditions needed to be finalised between workplaces covered by the dockers’ unions in attendance.
The unions decided they would work with each other, the ITF and other dock workers, seafaring and transport unions around the world to build a campaign to stop attempts of union busting through automation, with the initial focus on the finalisation of the ILA contract and the Patrick Terminal at Port Botany.