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Issue #1810      February 14, 2018

“An affront to democracy”

A code banning the display of the Eureka flag and union symbols at construction sites has been met with disgust. Bendigo-based members from a number of unions gathered outside the city’s trades hall last week to show they would not tolerate an attack on workers’ rights (see statement “Banning the Eureka flag ...”).

Employers found to have breached the building code by displaying union or union-related insignia on company-issued clothing, property or equipment supplied can be deemed ineligible to tender for government contracts.

Australian Services Union delegate Tim Sullivan said the ban was not only of concern to people working in construction. “Once they’ve hamstrung them, what’s next?” he said.

Australian Services Union, Ambulance Employees Australia and United Voice members were among those standing alongside CFMEU members at View Street in a show of solidarity.

Danny Hill, of Ambulance Employees Australia, said the ban set a dangerous precedent. “The government is basically saying, ‘We don’t want to hear what workers have to say,” he said. The Australian Building and Construction Commission is responsible for implementing the code, which has been in place since December 2016.

A fact sheet published on January 30 re-iterated the requirements in relation to union membership.

CFMEU local organiser James Simpson said the Eureka flag meant a lot to Victoria, to construction workers and the union movement and was often seen on construction sites.

“It’s a union-bashing expedition,” he said.

“We’re meant to be living in a democracy, not a fascist state.”

Unionist Neil Patton believed the ban was a tactic to reduce the influence of unions.

“If you take away the symbol that unites them, you disempower them,” he said.

“The Eureka flag was created in the 1850s in Ballarat as a sign of solidarity against people causing oppression.

“Taking advantage of the Eureka flag is an affront to democracy.”

United Voice member Peter Watkinson turned to French history to make his point.

He had superimposed a picture of Malcolm Turnbull’s head over a portrait of France’s King Louis XVI.

“The day of the [French] revolution that’s exactly what he wrote in his diary – ‘rain’, and nothing. Ignorant to revolution,” Mr Watkinson said.

Next article – In pursuit of wage justice

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