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Wharf win forces union changes

THE new State secretary of the Maritime Union of Australia is expected to push for a hardline stance on industrial issues.

Socialist Alliance member Chris Cain, who headed the Rank and File ticket, clearly defeated incumbent Wal Pritchard.

Mr Pritchard’s loss is expected to result in him stepping down as president of Unions WA, the peak union body in Western Australia.

Unions WA secretary Stephanie Mayman said Mr Pritchard was “unlikely to remain as Unions WA president”.

The position can only be held by a credentialed delegate from an affiliated union.

It was expected that Unions WA senior vice-president Toni Walkington, who is branch secretary of the CPSU/CSA, would act as president until a new election for the post could be held.

Mr Cain foreshadowed plans to “forge links with all other unions that think like us”, including the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union, the Transport Workers’ Union (where Mr Cain’s brother John is an organiser) and the Electrical Trades Union.

He also plans to meet with Unions WA to push for changes to workers’ compensation reforms planned by the WA Government.

The Rank and File ticket highlighted ‘casualisation’ and occupational health and safety as key issues for the maritime industry.

In campaign material, Rank and File candidates said: “our safety is treated with contempt and our working conditions both at sea and in port are continually eroded”.

They also described the increased use of casual labour as “out of control”.

Mr Cain said a stronger stance on industrial issues would not necessarily lead to increased militancy.

“It’s the members who will decide them things,” Mr Cain said.

“It won’t be three people sitting in the office who make those decisions.

“We formed Rank and File to take the union back to the members – they will have more say.”

Mr Cain’s Rank and File ticket had some success with other positions it contested in Victoria and NSW but not at a national level.

In WA, the incumbent deputy branch secretary Keith McCorriston defeated Rank and File challenger Peter Treacy while Rank and File candidate Ian Bray won the position of assistant branch secretary by 11 votes, although a recount had been called.

Mr Pritchard was appointed State secretary of the MUA early this year following the retirement of Terry Buck.

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