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Issue #1519      21 September 2011

Attacks on construction workers and their rights continue

Currently the CFMEU Construction and General divisions of both NSW and Victoria are under severe pressure from employers and governments. The NSW Branch has three members on picket lines from various sites campaigning against non-payment of benefits and unfair dismissal of a union rep from a building company. Meanwhile in Victoria the state government has come up with the novel idea of setting up a state version of the anti-union ABCC (Australian Building and Construction Commission). Finally the outrages of employers that inflict unsafe and unfair work practices get off scot free from the ABCC.

Warren Whitney talking to a workplace meeting about his predicament with the St. Hilliers Company. A few days later he was reinstated after being unfairly dismissed in a clear case of union victimisation.

The campaign to close this unjust and unfair organisation which was a creature of the Howard government’s WorkChoices continues. The CPA calls on all to keep up the fight against the ABCC (visit our website for form letters on this issue).

In Victoria the Premier Ted Bailleu, enraged by problems at the state’s desalination plant has suggested there is an element of union thuggery at the site and he was going to do something about it. What he suggested amounted to a mini-ABCC. The Victorian branch of the CFMEU has cut to the chase with its reply: the Victorian government has no plan, no vision and no policy initiatives except a tired knee jerk attack on unions on behalf of its mates in the building industry said the CFMEU secretary Bill Oliver. He went on to say ‘“The last state government handed over inspectorate rights when using federal funding for state projects to the ABCC, who already treat workers like second class citizens. Is Mr Baillieu going to remove these powers from the ABCC? Or is he saying that they don’t go far enough? It’s not very clear.”

Meanwhile, in Sydney the CFMEU has raised two more cases of construction companies’ mistreatmentof workers, bringing to three the workers that the CFMEU NSW is campaigning around. Last Monday morning union organisers addressed sites in the inner city Pymont area where two workers at the heart of the CFMEU campaign were able to let other workers know what was happening to them.

The union organisers told their fellow members that the companies who wanted work had to bid low to get the contracts and that to recoup that they were underpaying their workers and taking short cuts with safety. A union rep at St Hilliers company, Warren Whitney had been given the sack in a clear case of victimisation. The pressure from Warren and his union has seen him reinstated. A victory for collective action by the union.

William Hodge spoke also of how he was given the sack when he asked for his superannuation benefits (see Guardian September 7). William, an ABN worker, is owed 11 years of super.

The last word belongs to the Victorian CFMEU: “Victoria’s building industry is booming, and it plays a strong role in the state’s economy. The only people with an issue at the moment are the government’s mates in the construction industry so of course they will attempt to crack down on unions.”  

Next article – Australia Vietnam Friendship Society

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