Longford maintenance workers embody the spirit of the Eureka rebels
Hosted by the Spirit of Eureka, and organised under the theme of ‘continuing the fight for workers’ rights – the spirit of Eureka in Australia’s working class struggles’, the celebratory dinner attracted about 90 attendees, including many union members and officials, representatives of several community organisations, as well as a delegation of Longford maintenance workers and their partners/family.
Margaret Williamson, MC for the night and a descendant of one of the original Eureka rebels, opened the evening by reminding attendees that all who join the struggle for a more just and democratic Australia are also descendants of the Eureka rebels in spirit.
Dirk van Dalen, a CFMEU member and representative from the Spirit of Eureka, spoke on the continuing relevance and inspiring spirit of the Eureka rebels throughout the 163 year history of Australia’s working class struggles.
“But despite all the challenges, and despite all the attacks, I know that Australia’s working
people can overcome them.
Because I know that when workers stand together shoulder to shoulder united in struggle;
Because I know that when we come together to fight for the best interests of all working people;
Because I know that when we stand defiant, determined and united;
Because I know that when we remember the spirit of Eureka,
that we have the power to not only defeat the attacks of multinational corporations, and the
power to change governments, but that working people have the power to change society for
And I believe that’s what we should aim to do.”
Craig Kelly, assistant state secretary of the AMWU, one of the unions involved in the Longford dispute, spoke next on the dispute with Esso/ExxonMobil, highlighting the companies underhanded tax dodging that could have paid for thousands of nurses, teachers and apprentices, and pointed out the absurdity that Australia is set to be the biggest exporter of gas in the world yet ordinary working people are suffering due to rocketing domestic gas prices.
Mal Wood, representative of the Longford workers and a AWU workplace delegate, spoke passionately about their determination to continue their struggle with Esso/ExxonMobil, not only to defend their own wages and conditions, but for all Australian workers. Mal declared that workers are the backbone of this country who create the wealth and profits for multinational corporations. He was confident that their determination and the support of other unions and the community would ensure that their struggle would end in victory for the workers.
Word was received during the dinner that the MUA had set up a community assembly that day at Webb Dock in the Port of Melbourne over a new dispute that had just erupted. Will Tracy, deputy national secretary of the MUA, arrived at the meeting with other MUA officials straight from a hearing at the Fair Work Commission and addressed the meeting explaining the nature of the dispute.
He explained that the company VICT, with the help of turn-coat and sell out former MUA deputy national secretary Mick O’Leary, had excluded the MUA from EBA negotiations and had successfully got a CUB type agreement in place voted on by just 5 workers in a different port. The new agreement severely undercuts industry standard wages and conditions and pushes the union aside, and would be a disaster for all maritime workers across Australia should the union lose this dispute.
The night culminated with the delegation of Longford workers and their partners called up to receive the ‘Spirit of Eureka Award’ in recognition of their inspiring struggle. The workers were visibly moved to receive the award and thanked everyone for supporting them, and paid special tribute to their partners and families who have unwaveringly stood by them throughout the almost 170 day struggle.
Deepen the struggle against the multinationals
Recently, the campaign of the Longford workers has turned its focus towards exposing the giant US oil and gas multinational that is behind the dispute, Esso/ExxonMobil. At a recent rally for the sacked workers in Melbourne, union leaders placed great emphasis on the activities of ExxonMobil including its tax dodging and profiteering from excessively high gas prices. A campaign and facebook page has been set up to highlight the parasitical nature of the company, called ‘Make Exxon Pay’.
This is a welcome development and we should encourage its expansion. It’s not just ExxonMobil that workers are fighting back against. At Oaky Creek coal mine in southern Queensland, coal miners have been locked out for over 140 days, the longest lockout of coal miners in Australia’s history, by one of the world’s largest miners, Glencore, whose systematic tax evasion and corruption was recently laid bare in the leaked ‘Paradise Papers’.
There is growing understanding and anger at the exploitative and parasitical nature of multinational corporations operating in Australia, especially in the mining and resource sector.
The Communist Party of Australia (Marxist Leninist) maintains that the current stage of Australia’s revolutionary struggle is a battle to win independence from foreign imperialist interests. The fight against multinational corporations which constitute the core of Australian capitalism is part and parcel of that struggle.
We should raise our immediate demands for the nationalisation of multinational resource companies that pay no tax here, like ExxonMobil and Glencore, and call for Australia’s resources to be used to the benefit of the Australian people. The conditions for advancing the idea of a truly independent Australia are increasingly favourable.