|Issue No 85||23 February 2001|
Vale: Charlie Fitzgibbon (1922-2001)
By Zoe Reynolds
The man who gave the union movement industry superannuation, leave loading and the Accord has died.
Charlie Henry Fitzgibbon, a former general secretary of the Waterside Workers' Federation, and an executive member of the Australian Labor Party, the Australian Council of Trade Unions and the International Transport Workers' Federation passed away on Monday, February 19 after a long illness.
Speaking at the Palmdale Crematorium service on the NSW Central Coast on Friday, February 23 were Bill Kelty, former ACTU secretary, Ray Gietzelt, AO, former general secretary of the Miscellaneous Workers' Union and family.
"The labour movement has produced great people - prime ministers, premiers, judges, union and community leaders," said Bill Kelty. "These people play a very special role in this nation, providing a legacy beyond their years. Charlie Fitzgibbon, former wharfie's leader was among the best. Without doubt he was one of our most competent union leaders."
It was under the leadership of Charlie Fitzgibbon that the Waterside Workers Federation (now the MUA) established workers' superannuation, the Waterside Workers' Credit Union, permanency, voluntary redundancy, leave loading and the 35 hour week - all firsts in the labour movement and all achieved during the first decade after Fitzgibbon's election in 1961. Many of these conditions then flowed onto other unions.
"There is no worker in this country who does not owe Charlie," said Kelty, appointed by the ACTU to voice the collective appreciation of the union movement and pay tribute to Fitzgibbon. "Every day they work and every day they retire, all working people have a debt to Charlie. He was a wonderful person. A giant. A hero."
Fitzgibbon was also one of the architects of the Prices and Incomes Accord, as senior vice president of the ACTU, working closely with friends Bill Kelty and former PM Bob Hawke.
"Charlie was a mentor to political leaders and a lynchpin of the ACTU," said Kelty.
Charlie Henry Fitzgibbon was born in Newcastle. As a young man he witnessed the terrible effects of the Great Depression.
"It was this experience that influenced him to do what he could to make this world a better place for all," said Ray Gietzelt. "After the death of Jim Healy in 1961, Charlie Fitzgibbon burst onto the national industrial and political scene."
Charlie was regarded as labour right and there was much speculation at the time that the union and the labour movement would shift likewise. But Charlie stamped his own independent branch of progressive policies on the Federation and none doubted his outstanding ability and devotion to the cause of working men and women worldwide.
He served on the International Transport Workers' Federation as chairman of the dockers section and as Australian Workers' Delegate to the International Labour Organisation.
Other posts held by Charlie Fitzgibbon were on the ALP NSW Central Executive (1960s), ACTU executive (1967-1983) Central Executive of the ALP (1959-1971), ALP Administrative Committee (1971-1977), Chair, ITF Dockers' Section (1974-83) Commissioner of the Australian Shipping Commission (1973) Director of of the Reserve Bank of Australia (1983-1993), Member of the Steel Industry Authority (1982-1984) Commissioner of the IAC (1985-1986) Officer in the Order of Australia (1980)
Charlie Fitzgibbon is survived by his step daughter Valerie, grandsons David and Douglas.
Also attending the service were MUA National Secretary Paddy Crumlin, former secretaries John Coombs and Tas Bull, retired union leaders Fred Peterson (TCFUA), Alec McLagen (ETU), Barry Joy (TWU), Neil Swancott (formely MEAA, IFJ, now LHMU) National Secretary LHMU Jeff Lawrence, family, friends and MUA members.
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Last Modified: 15 Nov 2005