Federated Ship Painters and Dockers Union
|Full name||Federated Ship Painters and Dockers Union|
|Date dissolved||1 December 1993|
|Deregistered||Members joined MUA and AMWU|
|Office location||Balmain, New South Wales|
The Federated Ship Painters and Dockers Union (FSPDU) was an Australian trade union which existed between 1900 and 1993. The Painters and Dockers' Union covered "mostly work associated with chipping, painting, scrubbing, cleaning, working in every size of tanks, cleaning boilers, docking and undocking vessels, and rigging work".
The Painters and Dockers' Union had its origins in the New South Wales Associated Laborers Union, also known as the Balmain Labourers Union, which was established in Balmain in May 1883. The new union was formed to represent all unskilled workers or labourers in the area, but was focussed mainly on shipbuilding and ship repair, the main industry in Balmain. The union gradually grew in stature over the next decade, affiliating with the Trades and Labor Council of Sydney in 1889 and establishing the Balmain Trades and Labor Hall in 1890. The union was involved in the unsuccessful 1890 Maritime Strike. The union was also heavily involved in the formation of the first branch of the Labor Electoral League of New South Wales, the forerunner to the Australian Labor Party, in Balmain in April 1891. The union's finances suffered during the depression of the 1890s and in January 1898 the union's members unanimously voted for its dissolution. Following the dissolution of the Balmain Labourers' Union its members were reorganised along industrial lines, with the broad coverage of unskilled and semi-skilled workers in the shipbuilding industry split mainly between the Federated Ironworkers' Association and the Federated Ship Painters and Dockers' Union, the latter being formally established in 1900.
The union federated with branches in other states from its beginnings in Sydney and improved conditions on the wharves.
The dangerous and difficult nature of the work, as well as the small and close-knit nature of the workforce, encouraged strong union organisation amongst the painters and dockers and the FSPDU developed a reputation for militancy. For example, despite only representing 15 percent of the workforce in the shipbuilding and ship repair industry the FSPDU was involved in 40 percent of all industrial disputes between 1975 and 1978. The FSPDU was also notable for being the only union in Australia after 1976 to have more than 5 percent of its members in the shipbuilding and ship repair industry.
The FSPDU faced a decline in membership during the post war period as mechanisation (including sandblasting and spray painting) and the decline of Australian commercial shipbuilding reduced the number of jobs available. By the late 1970s membership of the union had fallen to approximately 2000, although the union actively defended the work of its members through competition with other unions over coverage, being involved in a high proportion of all demarcation disputes in the shipbuilding industry.
Alleged criminality and deregistration
In the 1960s and 1970s the union was alleged to have criminal connections.
In 1980 the union was subject to the Costigan Commission (officially entitled the Royal Commission on the activities of the Federated Ship Painters and Dockers Union), enquiring into its involvement with organised crime and tax evasion. This Commission became famous because its investigations led to the airing of allegations of tax evasion and drug trafficking against Kerry Packer, then Australia's richest man.
The union was de-registered in 1993. Despite widespread allegations of criminality, the reason the union was de-registered was because it had less than 1,000 members. After the Industrial Relations Act 1988 was passed by the Hawke Government unions with less than 1,000 members had to show why, in the public interest, their existence should continue. Whilst the Dockers opposed the de-registration on principle it could not advance an argument to continue its existence, taking the Act into account.  Before de-registration members of the Dockers had been transferred to what are now the Maritime Union of Australia and the AMWU.
Several prominent former members were involved in the Melbourne gangland killings. Lewis Moran and Graham Kinniburgh were both former members and met on the Melbourne waterfront. Five persons who were members or associated with the Union were connected with the attempted robbery of Trans Australia Airlines Flight 454.
- Bruce A. Smith (6 August 2010). "Federated Ship Painters & Dockers Union of Australia (1916 - 1993)". Australian Trade Union Archives. Retrieved 7 January 2013.
- Wynner, Issy (2003). "Chapter One: BALMAIN AND THE UNION'S SECOND LAUNCHING". My Union Right or Wrong: A history of the Ship Painters and Dockers Union 1900-1932. Takver. Retrieved 5 January 2013.
- Wynner, Issy (1983). With Banner Unfurled: The early years of the Ship Painters and Dockers Union. Sydney: Hale and Iremonger. ISBN 0-86806-081-X. Retrieved 8 January 2013.
- Taylor, Victor (1980). "Sectionalism, Solidarity and Action in Shipbuilding and Ship repair". In Frenkel, Stephen J. Industrial Action: Patterns of Labour Conflict. North Sydney: George Allen & Unwin Australia. pp. 64–85.
- The Ship Painters and Dockers Award 1969 - the Federal Award of the Union
- My Union Right or Wrong. A history of the Ship Painters and Dockers Union 1900-1932 By Issy Wyner (2003)