Update: March 21: Turnbull with the DD election steps up the corporate/LNP pressure to again make more powerful the ABCC to destroy the building and construction unions and as well the MUA, AMWU and TWU and remove the right to organise and strike. Turnbull sacrifices workers’ safety by bringing back the ABCC to criminalise union organising. The ABCC will do nothing to stop corruption. The ABCC has stasi-like powers more draconian than anti-terror laws. It’s just another vicious attack on workers and unions and can be defeated.
Turnbull wants to take more rights away from construction workers. Only one example how the ABCC tackled issues is being against what stickers workers wear on their hard hats and what flags fly on cranes. The ABCC determined that wearing a union sticker on your hard hat is “unlawful” and flying on cranes union flags or the Eureka flag is “unlawful” and this “unlawfulness” has to be prosecuted, stamped out…and more productivity lies etc
Unions say bring on the election – we’ll fight for workers rights, health, education and taxes on the rich – and kick the Liberals out.
This earlier report “Return of the ABCC before the Senate” provides some background.As well, there are many ABCC articles on this blog.
Join the campaign and sign the petition: http://www.standupspeakoutcomehome.org.au/abcc-will-try-silence-workers
Crikey reiterates that the building industry does not need the repressive ABCC with terrorist security policing powers in regular industrial relations.
(See at end article by Godfrey Moase NUW National Union of Workers on Australian unions.)
The Turnbull Government is threatening a double dissolution election if the Senate refuses to pass the Bill it reintroduced february 2016 to re-establish the ABCC. Background: see this blog ABCC historye.g. http://chriswhiteonline.org/2013/11/actu-and-cfmeu-on-abetzs-new-attack-on-building-unions-the-abcc-returns/
And really the ALP did not abolish the ABCC http://chriswhiteonline.org/2012/03/abcc-goes-in-name-only/
PM Turnbull told the Liberal party room that calling a double dissolution was a “live option” for his government.The Government already has one trigger for a double dissolution election, with the Senate having three times rejected legislation to establish the reactionary Union Registered Organisations Commission.
However, the Government would face significant risks from a double dissolution election, because it would reduce the threshold for the election of minor parties and independents. Respected ABC election analyst Antony Green has written that such a move is still “rather unlikely”.http://blogs.abc.net.au/antonygreen/2016/02/prime-minister-says-double-dissolution-a-live-option.html
Chris Pyne, introducing the Bill after the House of Representatives reconvened for 2016, said that current penalties didn’t deter the CFMEU from repeatedly breaking the law.”In fact, the CFMEU seems to regard these current penalties as merely the cost of doing business”, he said.
Employment Minister Michaelia Cash is lobbying Senate crossbenchers to win enough votes for the ABCC legislation to pass.
She told the ABC’s AM program that four crossbenchers had shown interest in viewing hitherto confidential volumes of the Heydon Royal Commission.
The Minister softened her refusal to to allow Labor and Greens senators to see any of the confidential material, on the grounds that they had a fixed position on the ABCC. However, Labor and the Greens rejected the offer, which came with the condition that only one MP could read the material under supervision by the Department of PM and Cabinet, and would not be allowed to take notes.Greens IR spokesperson Adam Bandt said today the process for viewing the confidential volumes “is descending into a farce”. “Government is saying on the one hand, we have this document that contains so much important information that you need to see it in order to pass this bill, and on the other hand they are not letting people in parliament see it.
Senator Lambie not impressed against the ABCC https://www.facebook.com/?q=
Meanwhile, Victorian independent Senator John Madigan said in a statement that he would not allow the threat of a double dissolution election to influence his vote. “The Prime Minister made a similar comment to me weeks ago but as I said then, holding a gun to my head will not change how I vote,” he said. Senator Madigan questioned the Government’s “exclusive focus” on union corruption.
“When constituents approach me complaining of corruption, unfair practices and unconscionable conduct their complaints inevitably relate to their treatment at the hands of banks, financial planners, lawyers, accountants, valuers, doctors, builders, major supermarket chains or government departments. “If the government were to put up legislation aimed at stamping out corruption and criminal conduct across the board I’d sign up tomorrow, but I continue to have serious reservations about the ABCC Bill in its current form”, he said.
Dave Oliver ACTU: We recognise that in any part of society there is potential for corruption, but using a Royal Commission to attack one section of the community does not address the need to stamp out corruption across all institutions, without bias.
The question for Malcolm Turnbull is whether he is can put the political approach of his predecessor behind him and take a wider view of the need to stamp out corruption across the board, rather than simply targeting unions. A test of his ability to do so will be his willingness to embrace a permanent independent corruption commission.
PUP Senator Dio Wang told the Guardian Australia that he would try to amend the ABCC bill to create a national corruption body, similar to the New South Wales Independent Commission Against Corruption. He said the Heydon Royal Commission had made some serious findings “but also there is corruption anywhere and everywhere so a national ICAC would be a really good authority to deal with it.”
People prefer a national Commission, not just on unions http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/national-anticorruption-body-needed-voters-20160203-gmkcgx.html
Greens support National Corruption Commissionhttp://lee-rhiannon.greensmps.org.au/content/media-releases/greens-support-union-call-federal-anti-corruption-body-time-pm-step
Employers campaign the ACCI and the AIG have both called on the crossbench senators to support the ABCC bill.
2. As well, Dyson Dumps TURC on workers http://chriswhiteonline.org/2016/01/dyson-dumps-turc-on-workers/
Defending Australian Labor
The Australian establishment has unleashed a wide-ranging attack on the country’s labor movement.
by Godfrey Moase NUW National Union of Workers https://www.jacobinmag.com/2016/01/australia-royal-commission-report-union-dyson-heydon/
On December 30, in the sleepy days of the Australian summer between Christmas and New Year’s Day, the country’s Trade Union Royal Commission (TURC) released its final report.
The otherwise technocratic document opened with an odd epigraph: an excerpt from Rudyard Kipling’s “Dane-Geld,” which exhorts civilized nations to stand firm against Viking raiders demanding tribute in return for not carrying out violent raids.
It is always a temptation to an armed and agile nation
To call upon a neighbour and to say:-
“We invaded you last night – we are quite prepared to fight,
Unless you pay us cash to go away.”
And that is called asking for Dane-geld,
And the people who ask it explain
That you’ve only to pay ’em the Dane-geld
And then you’ll get rid of the Dane!
. . .
And that is called paying the Dane-geld;
But we’ve proved it again and again,
That if once you have paid him the Dane-geld
You never get rid of the Dane.
Why did the Royal Commission begin by quoting the author of “The White Man’s Burden”? The only explanation, it seems, is that the commission sees the union movement as Viking raiders. Australian union workers, in the commission’s eyes, are a foreign army threatening the security of the “nation.” And they don’t need to be reformed — they need to be crushed.
The TURC report came at the behest of the newly elected Liberal federal government — conservative in the Australian context — which established the Royal Commission in early 2014 to investigate corruption and governance issues within the trade union movement. The Liberals have convoked four other such commissions in the last forty years, using them to subtly cut away at the power of workers.
This time around the government appointed as commissioner Dyson Heydon, a former high court justice and staunch conservative. (Heydon has faced allegations of impropriety for agreeing to speak at a Liberal Party fundraiser last year when the Royal Commission was still hearing evidence.)
Heydon’s report is a battle plan to defeat what is left of the Australian union movement. It contains seventy-nine recommendations, twenty-four of which go directly to the conduct of union officials and their eligibility to hold office.
One of the report’s key recommendations is that office bearers of the powerful Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) obtain approval from parliament.
In other words, the state can veto rank-and-file members’ democratic decision about who will lead their union — a jarring affront to the basic principle that workers should have the freedom to unite together free from state or employer meddling. Ironically, Heydon — a man who repeatedly warned of the dangers of the Soviet Union over his judicial career — has endorsed the Stalinist option.
In addition to its proposal to expand state interference, the report calls for other measures that constitute an attack on the union movement.
One such recommendation is preventing unions from indemnifying officials and employees or paying for any fines or compensation orders they incur while carrying out their union duties. Put simply, the state’s goal is to weed out union leaders who take militant stances and to raise the personal cost of fighting for workers.
I’ve experienced this first hand. Along with my union, I was once named co-defendant in a case where an employer was seeking AUD$1.8 million in damages during a bitter dispute. Knowing the union had my back financially allowed me to focus on helping the members win. The TURC report seeks to end this assurance, strengthening employers’ ability to counter effective organizing.
The Royal Commission report is only one of the ways Australian elites are battering the labor movement, leaders and rank-and-file members alike.
In early December, federal police arrested the Victorian branch secretary and assistant branch secretary of the CFMEU, John Setka and Shaun Reardon, on charges of blackmail. The target was no mistake: Setka and Reardon’s branch is among the country’s most militant.
Meanwhile, the federal government has slapped 101 workers with a $10,800 fine, claiming they engaged in an unauthorized work stoppage. Their crime? Having the audacity to attend a union meeting in July 2013 to talk about their wages and rights at work — apparently more egregious than lax safety regulations that kill workers and even sometimes members of the public. The more than $1 million cumulative fine dwarfs that handed out to one of Australia’s largest construction companies, which is facing a penalty of just $250,000 for a worksite accident that killed three pedestrians.
In addition, the evidence in the case was undoubtedly obtained using authoritarian means: to even know the identities of 101 construction workers who attended a meeting requires a high degree of state-employer collusion and surveillance.
This case isn’t about disciplining negligent workers. The workers completed the projects in question on time and within budget. This is about disciplining workers as a class. It’s about sending a message to the rest of the Australian workforce that they do not have the freedom to assemble without their employer’s consent. The few are being punished to discipline and control the many.
In mid-December, at a rally in support of the building workers, Western Australia Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) Branch Secretary Chris Cain threatened national stoppages “against these draconian laws.”
The employer reaction was swift. Steve Knott, the chief executive of the Australian Mines and Metals Association (one of Australia’s most influential corporate lobbies), called on the federal government to deregister the MUA and the CFMEU should they follow through with their national strike threat. “Deregistration,” Knott said, “is the only way to end their calculated and contemptuous law breaking.”
Under Australian law, deregistration entails stripping a union of its legal identity and its ability to function within the (already narrow) parameters of the industrial relations system. It’s the organizational equivalent of capital punishment.
Even after the release of the TURC report, workers received no respite. At 1 AM on January 13, a private security company conducted a guerrilla raid to forcibly evict the crew of the MV Portland, a vessel that had shipped alumina from Western Australia to Victoria.
The forty-person MUA crew had been peacefully occupying the ship after their employer, Alcoa, received permission from the federal government to use a foreign-flagged vessel, unilaterally terminating the crew and slashing wages.
Amid the standoff, a koala climbed up the mooring line of the ship and settled there to rest. It became the dispute’s iconic image, earning the name “Comrade Koala” and analogies to Heydon’s feared Viking raider demanding his gold.
But in the early morning of January 13, the weeks-long standoff came to a violent conclusion, and labor was dealt another blow.
Toward a Network of Organized Labor
These attacks have understandably cowed many in the movement.
Union leaders, of many different capacities and ideological leanings, fear the financial and organizational repercussions of any collective action outside of increasingly constricted boundaries. All it could take is a group of workers engaging in a solidarity strike to financially ruin the union or prompt its deregistration.
Moreover, the prospects of any action are uncertain in a context of declining trust. Lacking faith in their unions, many workers simply don’t join the organizations that ostensibly represent them. Some union leaders, in turn, doubt whether workers will stand together and take action in the workplace, leading them to sublimate the industrial struggle to the political field.
Even in this grim environment, however, the union movement can win if it understands both its recent defeats and the establishment’s fears.
The TURC report, the arrest of Setka and Reardon, the persecution of the 101 building workers, the guerrilla raid on the MV Portland crew — together they’re a distillation of the establishment’s strategy. It wants to paralyze labor’s leaders and make an example of a few workers exercising their rights. “Touch one, touch all,” as the union chant goes.
Union leaders must respond to this assault by investing in the capacity of the rank-and-file. Too often, figures in the labor movement have conflated their personal control with power. But lone officers cannot take on the state or employers with all their legal, political, and financial resources.
Further, any legal assault (such as the case against the 101 workers) can only target and punish a relatively small number of people. Its effectiveness turns on its ability to instill a nervous quietude in the rest of the movement.
A retreat at this moment would be disastrous; it would move the union movement from a defensive crouch to utter devastation. Instead, Australian labor needs to carry out work stoppages. It needs to engage in “calculated and contemptuous law breaking” to free workers from the authoritarian vice that is squeezing their rights at work.
In helping launch the wide-ranging and militant actions that are necessary, labor leaders must let go of the hierarchy and give platforms to workers who can propose and organize disruptions on the ground. Social media and sharing technology means that it is easier than ever to source ideas and feedback from the rank-and-file and to communicate about actions. That needs to be matched with a program for empowering the base to take action, fail and learn, and gain the confidence and maturity necessary to swarm and disorient the establishment.
Victory does not lie in the movement’s hierarchies but in unleashing networks of solidarity. Maybe then workers will be able to take back the Dane-geld.