The Maritime Union of Australia ("MUA") and Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union ("CFMEU") have announced this month that they are considering a merger.
The MUA and CFMEU are two of Australia's largest and most powerful unions, with approximately 16,000 and 140,000 members respectively. The merger proposal will be put to the MUA's members at its national conference in February 2016. In the meantime, both the MUA and CFMEU have expressed support for the merger and the impact it will have on workers' rights in Australia.
Paddy Crumlin, National Secretary of the MUA, has said that the merger will create Australia's most powerful union. He recently stated that "discussions to merge with the like-minded CFMEU will help us fight the ever-pervasive anti-worker and anti-union attacks on workers and their entitlements and job security". Mr Crumlin has also identified the ability to pool financial and legal resources as a significant factor motivating the proposed merger, particularly in light of the various complex legal issues currently being faced by unions in Australia.
Michael O'Connor, National Secretary of the CFMEU, has also expressed the opinion that the merger will strengthen both the national and international union movement. He recently stated that "the struggle isn't just about increasing wages, or creating a safe work site, there is also a bigger and important political struggle… [t]his move will be hugely beneficial to not just the members of the MUA and CFMEU but will lead the way for all working men and women".
The proposed merger is said to be a response to the tough current political climate for unions, with the new Turnbull government continuing to promote the Abbott government's proposals to limit the powers of unions in Australia. If the merger goes ahead, it will likely improve the bargaining power of both unions in opposing the government's move toward restricting the influence of unions in the Australian workforce.