Maritime Union of Australia members have voted in favour of merger talks with the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union, in a move which is set to create a single, more influential union across a number of the nation’s largest blue collar sectors.
MUA national secretary Paddy Crumlin this week welcomed the vote, hailing Tuesday as a “historic day for the union”.
“This decision has the potential to transform the labour movement in Australia,” Crumlin said.
“This is the beginning of a great journey. We will go forward together as a genuine united front.”
Crumlin was adamant that union members did not stand to lose their distinctive culture through the move.
“A merger doesn’t mean [workers are] going to lose their identity,” he said in an interview with Channel 10. “What the merger means is they’re going to have more of a capability to fight back and protect their interests.”
Employers are concerned over the extensive reach the merged unions will now have, across and throughout the Australian economy.
“We’re concerned we’ll end up with double the militancy,” Master Builders Association boss Wilhelm Harnisch told 10. “These two militant unions can literally … lock up the nation.”
But CFMEU national secretary for construction Dave Noonan pointed out in a statement that the unions have worked together in the past, on some of their biggest and most divisive issues.
“From 1998 [Patrick disputes] to the Hutchison dispute, from the anti-apartheid struggles, to Indonesian Independence, freedom for East Timor to the fight for land rights in our own country – these are the struggles that have defined our unions,” Noonan said.
CFMEU national secretary Michael O’Connor said the MUA’s vote was a “great result”.
“The resolution that was carried will be welcomed by the CFMEU when its executive meets later this week,” he said.
The CFMEU is also in merger talks with the Textile Clothing and Footwear Union, whose national secretary, Michele O’Neil, also addressed the conference of MUA workers who voted on Tuesday.
“We are a union with a lot of heart and a lot of street smarts,” O’Neil said, “we are able to use every possible tactic at our persuasion to win.”
Employment minister Michaelia Cash isn’t happy with the news.
Cash was quoted by Fairfax this week: “The fact that the two most militant unions in Australia are proposing to merge is extremely concerning.
“The potential merger of further unions to cover the majority of transport logistics across Australia should concern all Australians. This represents a major threat to productivity, jobs growth and economic prosperity.”