ask Not what your union can do for You,
ask what You can do through your union!
Why should you pay $1000 p.a. membership and not expect to get everything handed to you on a plate? (you ask).
Some Engineers have adapted amazingly quickly after their first-trip at sea, accepting the fact they are paid 50% more than a Graduate Doctor/Dentist as their natural due, adjusting with alacrity to the equal-time leave system and eager to accept the next service-increment that they will receive after the allotted period.
- They see no need to ask why they got paid so much during their training when most in industry ashore pay to train.
- They see no need to ask how their current salary got even higher than that of the company’s own middle-management.
- They see no need to ask the Engineers, who gave of their spare time to train them, why they see it as necessary to maintain a national union for Marine Engineers when the company clearly loves it’s employees and the ‘bad-old-days’ of workers being exploited and denied entitlements must surely be a thing of the past?
- They ask “…even if the Institute Award and Institute Enterprise Bargaining Agreement (“EBA”) is what guarantees them these entitlements, what has the Institute done in the last year since I (the first-tripper) became a Marine Engineer?
What is a union?
The Institute is both a Professional organisation (with professional issues championed admirably by our Director Professional Standards Jim Mallows) and a Trade Union.
Marine Engineers formed the Institute so that Marine Engineers could organise themselves to act collectively on company/State/National issues that are of concern to Marine Engineers. There are legal protections for members acting through the Institute that are simply not there for you as an individual. When Institute members act collectively they are protected by the Workplace Relations Act from any employer ‘backlash’ against them personally or jobwise. Thus YOU can exert considerable pressure in a response to what would otherwise be the overwhelming power of the employer to dictate terms to employees, or the unilateral regulatory action of Canberra bureaucrats against your Certificates.
What you decide to do with your collective-power is up to you; perhaps you may choose one or more of the following:-
- Defend your existing conditions [e.g. Leave]
- Negotiate workplace change [e.g. Shipping Reform when Cabotage was on offer]
- Rope-in new employers to Award/EBA conditions
- Collect money from members to fight in the Courts to preserve/re-instate Cabotage
- Push for improvement in conditions
If you are content with what you have already got you may do Nothing until the employer sells out the business from underneath you or attacks your conditions; then who will you turn to?
Collective-action may mean withdrawal of your labour to make your point, or it may simply mean adopting a hard-nosed bargaining position so that you don’t get pushed around.
The extent to which that collective power is used in your employer’s company is in your hands….so don’t enjoy all the benefits [salary/Leave/conditions) obtained through the AIMPE-membership of your Engineer-colleagues and then complain that the Institute hasn’t done anything for you lately! If you are content with your conditions at the moment then you have no cause for complaint. If you are not then you can hold an AIMPE-members meeting in your workplace and move motions to commence appropriate action to address your concerns.
Do you believe for one moment that the conditions that you are currently content with will be maintained without the ever-present capacity of Engineers, bonded-together through AIMPE-membership, to take collective action in defence of those conditions?
Maintaining your national Marine-Engineer’s union is as necessary as maintaining a viable fire-brigade and costs a similar amount…….its too late to try and create one from scratch when your house is burning down.
Who Ya Gonna Call?
Members often expect the future of their employment to go on precisely as it has in their recent experience; even if they hear of catastrophic problems in another company they assume it will never happen to them.
When inevitably a crisis happens in your company, “Who Ya Gonna Call” to help you help yourself?
Examples of such major crises in which members unexpectedly need to act collectively include:-
- 1995 HSI’s exit from shipping
- 1994-97 Marine Orders #3 Dispute: interference in Training standards for Engineering
- 1997 ISM’s attempt to halve Engineer manning on MV Sandra Marie
- 1999 BHP’s use of MV Pacific Triangle as an attack on the Leave System
- 1999 BHPPetroleum’s exit from Jabiru Venture & Challis Venture
- 2000 Shipowners attack on the industry-wide Marine Engineers Long Service Leave Award
- 2001 BHP’s take-it-or-leave-it proposal to offload 600 seagoing employees to Teekay
- 2002 AMSA make a fresh attack on Engineer qualifications in Marine Orders #3
- 2003 Cementco knows ship has Brown Asbestos but doesn’t tell employees
- 2003 BHPB-Petroleum forcing Chiefs onto contracts to attack Leave & Repatriation home
I’m sure you can think of many more instances, but the list is illustrative rather than exhaustive.
The moral of the story is that the level of AIMPE activity in your workplace is determined by YOU.
How active are you in holding workplace AIMPE-meetings and taking up your concerns through the protective mechanisms of the Institute?
It’s your call.