Maritime Men of the Asia-Pacific
True-blue Internationals Navigating Labour Rights 1906-2006
Diane Kirkby | Lee-Ann Monk | Dmytro Ostapenko
Studies in Labour History, 18
Liverpool University Press
October 1st, 2021
Maritime workers occupy a central place in global labour history. This new and compelling account from Australia, shows seafaring and waterside unions engaged in a shared history of activism for legally regulated wages and safe liveable conditions for all who go to sea. Maritime Men of the South Pacific provides a corrective to studies which overlook this region’s significance as a provider of the world’s maritime labour force and where unions have a rich history of reaching across their differences to forge connections in solidarity. From the ‘militant young Australian’ Harry Bridges whose progressive unionism transformed the San Francisco waterfront, to Australia’s successful implementation of the Maritime Labour Convention 2006, this is a story of vision and leadership on the international stage. Unionists who saw themselves as internationalists were also operating within a national and imperial framework where conflicting interests and differences of race and ideology had to be overcome. Union activists in India, China and Japan struggled against indentured labour and ‘coolie’ standards. They linked with their fellow-unionists in pursuing an ideal of international labour rights against the power of shipowners and anti-union governments. This is a complex story of endurance, cooperation and conflict and its empowering legacy.
Diane Kirkby is Professor of Law and Humanities, University of Technology Sydney and Research Professor (Emeritus) at La Trobe University. Dr Lee-Ann Monk is an Adjunct Research Fellow in History at La Trobe University. Dmytro Ostapenko is Research Associate at La Trobe University.