The Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) National Conference yesterday unanimously passed a motion to enter merger talks with the CFMEU.
The move comes after months of negotiations between the unions, paving the way for the creation of the most powerful union in the country.
MUA National Secretary Paddy Crumlin described the unanimous vote as a “historic day” for MUA, saying it has the potential to transform the labour movement in Australia.
“This is the beginning of a great journey. We will go forward together as a genuine united front,” Mr Crumlin told the conference.
He said the merger would not change the Maritime Union’s distinctive culture, name and identity.
“We’ve got good democratic structures. We’ve got our own leaders, who are democratically elected. We’ve got our own cultures and traditions, whether it’s on the wharf or on ships, which we don’t want to lose,” said Mr Crumlin.
“We want to be the MUA. You can’t be the MUA here to stay and then go somewhere. We want to be the MUA – as part of the great strength of a union that’s going to be able to protect maritime workers in the way they need to protected, deserve to be protected and will be protected.”
MUA National President and WA Secretary Christy Cain pointed out the historically strong solidarity ties between the two unions, which go back generations.
“I reminded members who may not have been around for the 1998 struggle, when the government and Patrick tried to break this union, that there would be no MUA today without the CFMEU in that struggle,” Mr Cain said.
“We need to be as one – unions that can fight. And I can think of no better union – and I don’t say this lightly – no better union – that can fight with us against employers, ombudsmen, and governments than the CFMEU.”
Dave Noonan, National Secretary of the Construction Division of CFMEU, reflected on the shared history between the two unions.
“From 1998 to the Hutchison dispute, from the anti-apartheid struggles, to Indonesian Independence, freedom for East Timor to the fight for land rights in our owns country – these are the struggles that have defined our unions,” Mr Noonan said.
“Under this government the working class is facing the biggest attack its ever faced.”
Michele O’Neil, National Secretary of the Textile Clothing and Footwear Union – which is also in negotiations with the CFMEU over a possible merger – also addressed the conference and spoke of her unions’ proud history over 146 years.
“We are a union with a lot of heart and a lot of street smarts – we are able to use every possible tactic at our persuasion to win,” she said.
Tony Maher, National Secretary of the CFMEU Mining and Energy Division dismissed the conspiracy theories that circulated in the public over the consequences of the merger between the two unions.
“It’s something that’s actually quite natural. The getting together of likeminded unions. What could be more sensible?” he said.