Australian Wharf Lockout -- Update
From Sam Lanfranco <email@example.com>, 9 April 1998
This is a small comment on the Australian situation, to put it into a global context that links it to the philosophy behind the Multilateral Agreement on Investment (MAI). I have suggested earlier (on my LABOR-L) that international transport, financial and industrial (ITF&I) companies were of one mind with regard to the treatment of dock and port facilities around the globe and that there would be a concerted strategy to turn them into what I call "factory gates".
The history of port cities and dock facilities has always been one of strong local governmental involvement and strong labor action. The port is the local resource for the local community, on a par with any other natural resource for non-port cities. It is also places port labor between the town and the shippers in something very close to a one-company town.
The current global ITF&I strategy is to privatize port facilities and remove the power of port labor. This, coupled with MAI for example, effectively removes local government and labour from having any say in the operations of the port facility. The port becomes simply a 'factory gate', a part of the global conveyer belt in the global assembly and distribution of physical objects. [Note: An interesting question is: Wll there be a similar episode in this electronic space?]
If this perspective is correct, this signals a major jump in the struggle over the future of the global economy. This is not "On the Waterfront" - with one union fighting on one warf. This is the first shot in a strategy which says "Confront Labour Everywhere At Once". Long ago it was union-by-union. Then it became dock-by-dock. With privatization it became city-by-city. With Australia it is becoming country-by-country. Tomorrow, with our without MAI it will be global. Period.
Anyone involved with the docks and the wharfs, from the worker or the community perspect needs to realize this. Today we are asked to express our solidarity with a struggle here and there. Tomorrow it will be pervasive. Beyond the port cities and the wharfs, one might ask who next will be turned onto a factory gate? A gate always owned by the factory and only effectively confronted when labor is adequately organized.