Letter to Delegates re Waterfront Dispute

April 21, 1998

Dear Comrade,

Over the last week or so, the Union has attempted to visit as many member stations/workplaces as possible in order to explain and discuss the waterfront dispute. We have managed to make around 50 or so such visits, each lasting around one hour. However, with almost 100 stations in Sydney alone, and four platoons per station (meaning 400 visits) it is virtually impossible for elected officials to visit every member. This is why our delegate network is so important.

Your State Committee of Management views the waterfront dispute as the most important issue to face the Australian trade-union movement, and therefore this Union, in its history. There should be no doubt that this issue goes far beyond the MUA and the productivity of the waterfront workers. It is (and always was) about smashing the trade-union movement. If Howard, Reith and Corrigan are successful, then we will (sooner or later) follow the same fate as the MUA and its members.

Frankly, the popular media’s coverage of this dispute has been heavily biased against the MUA and the ACTU. It is probably because the Telegraph is (unfortunately) ‘the firey’s paper’ that some of our membership still mistakenly believe this dispute has nothing to do with us. The opposite applies of course, but it will be delegates like yourself, along with other committed rank and file members who will have to carry the truth to our membership.

Members who wish to join the union pickets at Carrington, Darling Harbour, Port Botany and/or Port Kembla docks should certainly be encouraged to do so, even if they can only spare as little as half an hour. Every body counts! The support to date from rank and file members has been excellent, and it seems the number of members prepared to assist only increases as the dispute drags on. Even our Minister for Emergency Services made a special trip to the Port Botany picket line yesterday to show his support for picketing FBEU members.

Please take the time to discuss this dispute with your station’s members. Speaker’s notes follow to assist you in this task. Also included are copies of the Union’s four notices to date on this

issue. Please read them so that you may use them to help you in your discussions with members, and post them at your workplace if previous copies have been lost or removed. Finally, please contact the Union office (ask for Kirsten Cameron in the first instance) if you require any further advice or assistance in your capacity as a Union Delegate. On behalf of the elected officials and rank and file members of our Union, many thanks for your assistance in this most crucial dispute.

Yours fraternally,

Chris Read

State Secretary

PS – Whilst the situation with the waterfront dispute is certainly fluid, the Union’s officials are monitoring developments and shall call a Special General Meeting if and when the dispute worsens. The possibility for broad national industrial action by the wider trade union movement is very, very real and if it comes to pass, the rank and file will be asked to consider exactly how and what contribution the FBEU will make to this action.

Stay united!