The Guardian August 14, 2002

Melbourne message to Building Commission

by Amanda Tattam*

Victorian unions say they will not cop the political agenda of the Cole 
Royal Commission. Thousands of delegates and union activists joined 
building unions this morning to expose the union bashing agenda behind the 
Building Industry Royal Commission.

The Cole Commission recommenced its hearings in Melbourne on Monday, and 
the all-union delegates rally highlighted the Commission's function as a 
political tool to attack strong unions.

Leigh Hubbard, Victorian Trades Hall Secretary said: "First it was the MUA 
(Maritime Union of Australia), then the coal miners, then the meat workers 
union, now the Coalition is gunning for the construction unions. As far as 
we are concerned, an attack on one is an attack on all".

"At every hearing before the Commission we can see thinly veiled attacks on 
workers and the unions that represent them. There is little or nothing said 
about the rorts and tax evasion by construction companies; the appalling 
safety standards in the industry; under-payment of workers; entitlements 
and prevalence of phoenix companies that are here today and gone tomorrow.

"It's a one-sided circus that is squandering tax payers' money."

"The Royal Commission is costing an estimated $60 million, double the 
amount spent on the HIH Royal Commission. This is money that could be spent 
on improving workplace safety or bringing into line greedy companies that 
flout the law", said Mr Hubbard.

Unions are concerned that Tony Abbott's call for a special taskforce for 
the building industry suggests there is extensive criminality or rorting by 
workers in the industry.

"He deliberately confuses legitimate building union militancy, which the 
whole union movement supports, with the suggestions that behaviour is 
somehow unlawful", said Mr Hubbard.

The Victorian Trades Hall Council says it opposes any criminal behaviour, 
and that so far the Cole Royal Commission has heard no credible evidence 
about criminal behaviour by either union officials or organised workers.

During his attacks on the CFMEU Mr Abbott has constantly claimed that the 
building industry is inefficient or unproductive, but an OECD report has 
found that Australian building industry productivity is the second highest 
in the developed world, apart from Canada.

"Many of the legislative proposals that come out of this Royal Commission 
will affect all unions. Melbournians are proud of their city and we all 
need to recognise that this city has been built, restored and even 
sometimes saved by construction workers.

"They have also lent their support to the struggles of other union members 
and to international justice in places as far apart as East Timor and South 
Africa. This is why we are calling on all union activists to show support 
for construction workers", says Mr Hubbard.

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*Victorian Trades Hall Council

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