Illawarra unionists will not give up until they have secured a future for Australian seafarers sacked by BHP and BlueScope, a protest in Wollongong was told on Wednesday.
Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) members from the Illawarra and from Newcastle staged a rally on Flagstaff Hill, vowing to fight until moves to replace Australian ship workers with foreign "flag of convenience" staff were defeated. Unions around the world held events to support the cabotage campaign.
And after campaigns of industrial action won better enterprise agreements for workers at the Port Kembla Coal Terminal, BlueScope, and Wollongong Coal, unions have their tails up.
South Coast Labor Council secretary Arthur Rorris said they were driven by the "gutless" sacking of Australian seafarers - unions said 70 - while working in international waters in January.
With the wind blowing gusts of up to 65km/h, MUA national secretary Paddy Crumlin led the crowd through a union song that might as well been a sea shanty.
But before that, he had some emotional words for companies that sack their Australian crews to replace them with much cheaper international crews - to transport good from one Australian port to another.
He said this was a betrayal of those who had worked to build up industry in the Illawarra over many decades.
"They're not the 'big Australian', they're the small Australian - with a heart the size of a split sesame seed," Mr Crumlin said.
"They haven't got hearts, they've got nothing. All they've got is greed and elitism."
Wollongong AMWU leader Brad Hattenfels said the fight involved manufacturing workers too.
"A lot of the cargo is used in the manufacturing industry - they come to the steelworks, they supply other industries, other manufacturers," he said.
"It's this idea of businesses being able to register in a country that allows them to exploit workers - and it's the same in some other industries as well."