- The Guardian
- Issue #2048
Action in Perth. Photo: CPA
Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union members launched major rallies across Australia on Wednesday 5th April as anger mounts over serious issues facing the nation including the cost-of-living crisis, workers’ safety, and the need for an effective workplace watchdog.
Tens of thousands of union members hit the streets for a national day of action across Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Canberra, Adelaide, Perth, and Cairns.
CFMEU National Secretary Zach Smith used the rallies to ramp up calls for the Fair Work Ombudsman to be abolished and replaced with a watchdog which prioritises workers.
“The Fair Work Ombudsman has been a dismal failure on wage theft, sham contracting, and corporate insolvencies – three of the biggest issues in the construction industry,” said Smith.
“Australian workers deserve a watchdog with teeth, not one that tickles the tummy of corporations who do the wrong thing while pursuing anti-union ideological fights left over from the Coalition government.”
The CFMEU and its officials face millions of dollars in fines as the FWO continues to pursue court cases commenced by the union-busting former Australian Building and Construction Commission.
“We need to scrap the Fair Work Ombudsman and start again. Let’s start from scratch with a body that puts workers first.”
“Yet another major builder went under last week and where was the Ombudsman? Either the FWO doesn’t care or doesn’t have the power to act. That leaves workers and subcontractors carrying the can when corporate insolvencies bite,” Smith said.
“This national day of action is a pivotal moment for CFMEU members to make their voices heard on the issues that are stoking white-hot anger in the community.
“We are in the midst of the most serious cost-of-living crisis in decades while corporate greed pours petrol on an inflationary bonfire.
“It’s time we challenged the broken economic paradigm that calls for wage restraint at a time of skyrocketing profits for the big end of town.”
CFMEU officials around Australia also used the national day of action to stress the importance of the union’s ongoing Stop The Killer Stone campaign.
The CFMEU is pushing for federal and state governments to ban the use and importation of engineered stone, which causes deadly lung diseases increasingly being diagnosed in workers.
“Every day we wait to ban engineered stone is another day Australians could be given a death sentence at work,” Smith said.
“While governments have started a process which is working towards a ban, our union’s hard deadline of 1st July next year remains in place.
“If governments won’t ban the asbestos of the 2020s, the CFMEU will.”