“Illegal” solidarity action necessary to challenge employer offensive

Patricks dispute, 1998

Ian Anderson

“Blacking,” or black-listing of cargo, has a long and proud history among wharfies. In 1998 during the Australian Patricks dispute, when the Australian government in concert with private contractors launched an offensive to casualise Australian ports, wharfies in Auckland black-listed a ship loaded by scab labour. This international solidarity was a key factor in undermining the employer offensive, a struggle which was in many ways similar to the current attack  by Ports of Auckland.

On the 2nd of March, port workers in Wellington refused to work a ship loaded by scabs in Auckland. On a rainy and dreary night, a community picket drew in support from various unions, with delegates from Unite calling off an event that night to show solidarity. CentrePort promptly got a court order demanding Wellington wharfies unload the ship. All ships loaded by scabs have also been black-listed in Australia.

Labour opposes the right to solidarity strikes.

In the February Spark, we noted how solidarity strikes are crucial in challenging the current employer offensive. Labour’s Employment Relations Act bans solidarity strikes, because they challenge a “secondary employer” such as Wellington’s CentrePort.  The International Labour Organisation notes how the right to strike underpins all other basic rights, such as the right to organise, the right to a living wage, and even wider community claims; the refusal by wharfies to work nuclear warships was a key factor in introducing our nuclear-free policy.

Both Labour and National oppose the unrestricted right to strike because it undermines the basis of their class power. This right is never given, always taken. Workers and progressives must fight for the unrestricted freedom to strike.

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